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I love you, Trader Joe. To the moon and back.
This is going to be a short post because I’m up late tonight writing an essay on free indirect discourse in Jane Austen’s Emma for my Literature & Linguistics class. But I could not let the opportunity go by without telling you how, in the midst of the writing frenzy that accompanies my usual eleventh-hour inspiration, I would have starved tonight if it wasn’t for Trader Joe.
Dinner? Who has time for petty societal conventions like dinner when there is free indirect discourse to be analyzed, preferably before 2 pm in the third-floor English office of Wheeler Hall the following day?
Me, that’s who. Thanks to my trusty Trader Joe’s Indian Fare in a box, I was able to enjoy a meal of Pav Bhaji, jasmine rice, and garlic naan before getting back to work on that tense-aspect analysis. What is Pav Bhaji, you ask? Good question. I like to describe it to people as The One In The Teal Box.
See, Indian Fare is ready-to-heat Indian food just like your roommate’s mom so lovingly brings her in thirty thousand tiny labeled Tupperware single-meal portions every other week. The only difference is that Trader Joe encloses them in silver pouches that you can dunk in boiling water or slit open and dump into the microwave, so you feel way more badass when you heat up your dinner, like a Navy SEAL preparing C-rations or something.
While you’re at Trader Joe’s picking up your multicolored boxes, you should also be sure to swing by the frozen foods aisle and pick up some Garlic Naan, which heats up marvelously in a toaster oven.
I think that food this good deserves its own stereotypical ethnic Trader name, to join the proud ranks of Trader José, Trader Giotto, and Trader Ming.
Since starting this blog, I have developed an unhealthy need to take photographs of my food. Things have gotten to the point where I will bring an entire dinner party to a halt just so that I can take a few snaps for this blog while my friends slouch in their chairs, exhale pointedly, and roll their eyes.
My favorite meal to photograph is lunch; maybe it’s the simplicity of the meal, or the way the light in our kitchen looks at noon, or the satisfaction of a well-fixed sandwich. Hopefully, these photos will give you healthy lunch ideas that are easy to fix in 10 minutes with a stock of basic groceries from the fridge in your apartment. At the very least, my mom, who just started reading this blog, will be able to see that I’m not living off of Hamburger Helper and Mac & Cheese in college. Hi, Mom.
As you have doubtless noticed, hummus is a staple part of my diet. Hummus to me is like corn to the Incas, or rice to the Chinese, or barley to the Mesopotamians. As I have mentioned multiple times on this blog, it’s all about Trader Joe’s, people.
For this post, I was inspired by Jen’s blog project at simply breakfast, introduced to me by Natalie. Jen takes amazing photographs each morning of the first meal of the day, and has even published an entire book of them. Here are a few samples of her work:
I’m not nearly as patient as Jen in selecting backdrops and dishware specifically chosen for the way their colors compliment and accentuate the food-as-art. Usually I manage to snap a photo just before I wolf down my lunch and dash to swim class.
If I was a snooty art major, though, I would give the alternate explanation “I like to give the natural colors and textures of nature room to express themselves, by juxtaposing them with the simple pastoral feel of our worn wooden table, so that the visual exploration of the food itself is the focal point.”
Four out of five school days, I eat lunch in the apartment because I’m working from home for my internship with ChunkIt!, a San Jose, CA tech company that basically has found a way to make your Internet research (easier), better, faster, stronger. This is usually after Stats 20 lecture or before swim class, so by the time lunchtime rolls around, you can bet that I’m in serious need of brain food.
This is one of my favorite lunches: a toasted PB&J with crunchy peanut butter, tortilla chips, carrot sticks and hummus, fruit, and milk. When I made it on Thursday I felt like a 1940s mom preparing a nutritious and healthful lunch pail for her first grader. Except that first grader was me.
I even covered all of the food groups again: protein (peanut butter), grains (bread, chips), fruits and vegetables (plums, carrots, hummus), and dairy (milk). Score.
Michael Bluth: What have we always said is the most important thing?
George Michael Bluth: Breakfast.
George Michael: Family, right. I thought you meant of the things you eat.
I never skip breakfast, and I’m surprised when my friends say they do. It’s really not too difficult to toast an English muffin or pour a bowl of cereal in the morning on your way out the door, and it makes such a big difference in your concentration levels and your mood for the rest of the morning.
Lately, I’ve been having Trader Joe’s Frosted Shredded Bite Size Wheats (basically fancified Mini Wheats, okay?) and I love them. They have 90% of my daily value of iron, which is important because I’m iron deficient. If I have a bowl of wheats with soymilk, that’s my entire daily value right there.
Everyone has a different way of eating cereal. I like mine with soymilk to add sweetness and nutrition, but just enough to get the cereal wet. I really hate eating cereal with a big bowl of milk, so that at the end you’re left with sugary milk with little bits of cereal floating in it that your mom makes you drink.
I also like adding bananas or peaches on top for potassium and vitamins, as well as a big glass of soymilk on the side. Awesomely healthy; all four main food groups are represented (grains, protein, fruits, dairy).
In addition to learning to cook, I’m also learning to grocery shop in my first few weeks in the apartment. I usually shop at Trader Joe’s on College Avenue because it’s easily accessible by bus, the items are always good quality, and it’s often cheaper than Safeway. I love Joe.
One cool thing I learned so far to save money is to substitute ground turkey for ground beef. It’s cheaper per pound, leaner (and thus healthier), and it’s better for the environment. Cows take up a lot more resources than turkeys do to produce an equivalent amount of meat, making both the dollar and the environmental cost higher. (Of course, if you really want to eat efficiently on the food chain, you should become a vegetarian. But I can’t give up my meat just like that.)
So far, I’ve used ground turkey to make meat sauce for my pasta, as well as a delicious lasagna.