By: Tanya Ward Goodman
The Trader Joe’s in my neighborhood has recently expanded and I am completely thrown by the change. In the last few weeks, I have come home from market trips without milk, juice, toilet paper and eggs. The reason? I don’t make a list. The store layout is my list. At the risk of dating myself, I’ve been shopping at this same Trader Joe’s for close to twenty years. In those many years, the apple juice has remained in roughly the same spot. Same goes for the eggs and milk. I didn’t need a list, I had a route.
I hate change.
When I did finally break down and make a list, I realized that I don’t even like the things I’m putting on the list. I’m tired of pasta and tuna and wheat bread. I’m bored by all the cheery Trader Joe’s packaging. Trader Giotto? Trader Jose? I’m bored by you guys, too.
So I cheated on Joe. I drove to Highland Park where no one knows me and I brazenly parked right in front of Fresh and Easy. At first I was charmed by the straightforward simplicity of the place — the bare bones décor, the warehouse chic of the concrete floors. There was thick cut bacon and bags of blue corn chips and boxes of chocolate covered almonds. There were organic greens and heirloom melons. Just like at Trader Joe’s. But they looked new and fun decked out in the Fresh and Easy logo. In this world, color change is all that separates eggs from milk. It’s almost Warhol.
Fresh and Easy turns out to be all tease because, once I got up to the checkout counter, I was left alone to close things out myself. As I scanned my items, each one became more and more pedestrian. The same pretzels, the same cottage cheese, the same cheese, the same old, same old. I suddenly missed the cute, pierced check out guys at TJ’s. I missed the little bell they ring for extra cashiers and I missed the Hawaiian shirts. Fresh and Easy suddenly seemed stale and hard.
I missed human contact. I like knowing what the guy behind the counter did with his weekend. I like that woman, Nancy, with the long grey hair and the kind smile. I like running into friends and neighbors in the (always crowded) parking lot.
I have returned to Trader Joe’s armed with a new list. On this list are things I don’t usually buy. I am looking at the new floor plan as a way to break out of my rut. I’m going to bypass our customary taco night and turkey meatloaf for Chicken Tikka Masala or Spaghetti Bolognese. I’m going to skip the obligatory box of tofu and substitute bean stew or chickpea cakes.
I can both hate change and see the value in it. Change makes the brain nimble by forcing us to look at things from a different perspective. I hadn’t realized how dull my food life had become until change forced me to write it down.
It’s a challenge for me, this change. But one that leaves me feeling energized. I am looking at other places that might need a little shake up. My closet? My writing habits? There are always more lists to be made…