I grew up just a few miles from the first Trader Joe’s store that opened its door outside of the West. Yet I never stepped through them.

TJ’s goodies were all around during my young adulthood my friends were brand ambassadors before there was a term for it. If the store had offered services on Sundays many of them would have made their way into the hallowed rows of frozen delicacies.

Trader Joe’s opened in Vermont a month after I moved away, but my indoctrination came at the same time as my Vermont friend’s. I live a five minute walk from TJ’s even in the worst weather (even though Denver doesn’t have the worst weather (have I mentioned that before?)). My first few approaches had me walking the aisles as if it were a regular grocery store, expecting to balance my cart with fresh proteins and veggies. Go ahead, laugh.

Are you done?

Well I almost was. I took a long break from the Hawaiian-clad super helpers and drove to Whole Paychecks weekly to fork out cash. I basked in the self righteous feeling that comes from overpriced organic produce.  After complimenting a canape for the 17th time and having a friend proudly proclaim its provenance as Trader Joe’s I decided to go back.

Instead of shopping for meals I planned to hit the treats, snacks and specialty foods. I found that everyone had a favorite item.

A foodie friend recommended the tin of smoked trout. It is oily goodness that is great on a cracker with a bit of fruit. If you can’t finish the tin you are in trouble though because storage is a slimy bitch, and while you are wrestling it into whatever container you hope can contain it you will be swarmed by your cats. Unless you don’t have cats, in which case you will be swarmed by my cats who can sniff it out through time and space.

My friend on the Bernie campaign touts the tamales. I’m not sure if they have the candidate’s endorsement, but the freezer case certainly has variety. She says the sweet corn tamales are too sweet (its in the name sweetie) but the rest are great. I am intimidated by them because I don’t know whether the husk is a wrapper or an ingredient. She seems to be right about a lot of things though so maybe I’ll take on the tamale at some time in the future.

Cookie Butter. This stuff seems to be universally acclaimed. The name…cookie…butter… brings to mind a creamy slightly savory cookie dough. They got me with the ginger flavor though. I find it repulsive. Which is probably a good thing as I have watched friends dig into a tub with two fingers leaning over the sink to catch the spills, which never stay in the sink but end up in the sink hole of their cookie butter loving mouth.

My favorite is none of the above. Although I claim to be a savory snacker it is a sweet treat that tempts me at TJs. By tempts me you might imagine that when I am wandering the store for other healthy items I demurely add a candy bar or two to my reusable bag. This is not the case. What I do is gather 3/4 of the display into my greedy fist and bring the candy and only the candy to the check out.

Here it is.

See the small print?

See the small print?

Aren’t they beautiful? At least the ones I have left for other people to enjoy?

Look really closely. Not just at how happy the olde timey couple is…but at the fine print. “A popping sensation that will ignite your sense!” Ignite.That is the magic people. Whole people gather into rooms to see ignite slide shows. Rockets head to space after ignition. Artists strive to ignite their inner fire to create life changing work. And really it is all available in CHOCOLATE for ONE DOLLAR AND NINETY NINE CENTS. It would be a bargain at 10 times the cost. All I had to do was eat two squares of delicious subtly spiced and textured chocolate and for less than 25 cents I was able to USE ALL CAPITALS. WITHOUT IRONY.

What ignites you at Trader Joe’s? I know you all have a secret selection that just might change lives.

The following two tabs change content below.
Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

Latest posts by Anna Palmer (see all)