Or, How Sabrina is Coping Poorly Outside of Her Natural Habitat.
I miss Trader Joe's.
That can pretty much sum it all up.
But I'll explain, because that makes a better story.
Okay. I've lived within reasonable proximity to a Trader Joe's (2-4 miles) for the past 8 years or so (and Whole Foods, but they're becoming over-rated). Oh, you don't know what a Trader Joe's is? Let me fix that.
Trader Joe's is essentially a haven for wanna-be foodies who have a budget, hippies who desire vegetarian, organic, and alternative fare, and it is also friendly to those who live gluten-free. In Southern California, Trader Joe's is frequented by yuppies; in the PNW, well, Trader Joe's is a given for almost anybody. There you can find the yummiest coconut milk ice cream, the cheapest organic spaghetti sauce, the tastiest dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt, some of the most innovative food creations, cheap, organic veggies, the best junk food paraded as healthy food, and mostly, I was a very happy human being shopping there.
For four of those years, I've lived in the Pacific Northwest, where I naturally acclimated as a nerd, quasi-hippie, musician, bookworm, and an individual who is generally interested in the arts. Health food stores are a given there (Marlene's was the best! Who knew local health food stores could have such lovely delis!), and vegans are so common that no one bats an eyelash in encountering one. I was safe, happy, and comfortable in this environment. I shopped every week at Trader Joe's, because, for the things that I normally buy, it was the least expensive option. When I first moved to the PNW, Trader Joe's was a welcome, familiar place. I also frequented Marlene's…surprise, surprise.
I moved to the South in July. And boy oh boy, was there plenty of culture shock in the food department. Nearest Whole Foods? 60 minutes away. Trader Joe's? Around the same. Nearest health food store (a tiny one, without a deli)? A good 6 miles away. The nearest grocery store? Kroger. The only grocery stores in town? Food Lion, and...Kroger. I've had to reassemble life without inexpensive access to organic baby carrots, natural peanut butter, free-range chicken, gluten-free snickerdoodles, sweet potato chips, organic olive oil, vinho verde, and…basically everything I'm used to snacking on. Any (rare) equivalent I might find at Kroger's is around 100% more expensive.
The funny thing is, Trader Joe's requires a high collegiate population in order to place a store in that city. Lynchburg is teeming with undergraduate and graduate students. Why no Trader Joe's? Why?
And it's not just Trader Joe's I'm missing. I still mope over the fact that I can't pop over to Metropolitan Market and grab a vegan, gluten-free cupcake. Those kind of cupcakes don't exist in Lynchburg. I'd have to scrounge up the ingredients to make them myself, and would seriously luck out if I didn't have to spend half a day traveling to find them. BUT. I would be very happy if there was just a Trader Joe's nearby.
There's something to be said for eating familiar foods; it's good for the soul, don't you think? Somehow, everything else will be okay, as along as I can put familiar foods in my belly. But for now, there's an ache in my belly and consequently, my soul, because they miss Trader Joe's.