I have been to Trader Joe’s twice in my life. Despite its close proximity (28th and the Beltline), I had always convinced myself that it was just enough out of the way and out of the budget when it came to grocery shopping. I benefited from my parents’ more frequent trips and the wealth of proffered dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and, for a while, this was enough.
This fall, however, due to a Trader Joe’s enthusiast of a housemate and my growing boredom with my regular rotation of pasta, quesadillas, couscous, and ramen for dinners, I was encouraged to venture forth once more.
So one sunny late-September day, my other housemate, Abby, and I decided to go. We waited a short while outside as the workers maintained a COVID-necessitated equal flow of customers in and out of the store. We then were handed a freshly-sanitized shopping cart and entered the store.
As anyone who has ever stepped foot in a Trader Joe’s knows, it would be very easy to come home with one of everything off the shelves. From cinnamon cookies to empanadas, organic sweet potatoes to ginger beer, pork buns to spanakopita, there are treats to appeal to any palate. My housemate and I spent a while roaming the aisles on our own, occasionally finding the other to point out a particularly interesting item. Shortly, our cart was filled with new delights.
It wasn’t until I came face-to-face with this cornucopia of meal options that I realized how drab I’d allowed my days to become. As a partially-employed recent graduate not returning to school in the fall for the first time since I can remember, I often do not have a set schedule, which makes my days nearly indistinguishable from one another. Mealtimes similarly seem to only serve to break up my day.
Recently I’ve been trying to combat this, trying to bring delight back into my everyday life. Cooking has certainly been a good place to start. With few activities to do outside the house, especially as the weather becomes cooler, planning for and cooking the next meal becomes an event (especially if supplemented with finds from Trader Joe’s).
In general, I’ve found cooking for myself to be one of the joys of adulthood. It is both a way to be independent and to provide for others; it is both intake and outtake. Cooking is self-expression; it’s self-care. When I cook for myself, there’s a comfort in the fact that I only have to please myself. I can follow a craving or try a new dish that only I might like.
And yet I also love cooking for or with others. Growing up, cooking was often a communal effort, my sisters and I acting as sous chef or—my favorite position—sauté master or helping clean up afterwards. Nowadays, I often cook with or alongside my housemate Abby, and when I bake, I like to share the wealth of scones or banana bread with the house.
If there were a sixth love language, I believe it’d be food—making a special meal for another person, enjoying the process of trying out a new recipe together, or simply offering another Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup.
Lauren Cole (’20) graduated with a major in English and minors in French and psychology. She grew up in Grand Rapids and wants to live as she wants to die—surrounded by trees. She loves adding books to her TBR, but actually reading them is another matter.