There are few things I will willingly wait in line for. I will never dance in exclusive clubs, because I refuse to stand outside, shivering, waiting to get in. The sweet, soft, and flaky dough of a cronut will never cross my impatient lips. Rollercoasters will go unridden, museums unvisited, and movies unseen if there's a snaking line of humanity between me and the entrance. And yet, a few weeks ago, I stood in line for half an hour — not to get into a club or to get to my license renewed, but to get into a Trader Joe's.
It was so packed after work that the store had installed a bouncer at the front to manage the crowd. I stood, first a block away, then half a block, then, mercifully, I was granted entry. I stood shoulder to shoulder (well, back to iPhone) with my fellow Americans, and we waited. We waited, because you don't just go to Trader Joe's to pick up grocery staples, you go for the fun, whimsical treats — products that sound weird, but are actually amazing.
We waited, and it was worth it. Trader Joe's is fancy, but affordable; funky, but dependable; their free samples are always delicious, plus, approximately 80 percent of their stock is their own Trader Joe's brand.
I left that day with the basics, but also with a selection of whimsical snacks, treats that would brighten a boring day at work, or make me feel fun and cosmopolitan when I had guests over. I left the same woman I was before, but perhaps also better, more interesting. I saw the people still in line, and nodded encouragingly as if to say "You too will have a life filled crunchy seaweed snacks, if only you're patient." No one nodded back.
Here is a selection of just some of the weird and wonderful products that make Trader Joe's worth waiting in line for.
I know this sounds like the culinary equivalent of mothballs, but mashed cauliflower is delicious. Plus, it has more vitamins and less than a third of the calories of mashed potatoes.
Sriracha Seafood Potstickers
When I was growing up, my dad taught me an important lesson: if two things are delicious on their own, chances are they will be delicious together. Turns out this isn't always true (tuna and peanut butter?), but in the case of potstickers and Sriracha, his fatherly truism certainly applies.
Organic Teriyaki Seaweed Snacks
Seaweed is a criminally underused ingredient in the U.S. It's packed with vitamins and minerals, and it's savory, salty, delicious goodness. A word of warning though, these crispy leaves have a tendency to get between your teeth and stay there, especially before dates and job interviews.
Wine (IN A CAN)!
Birthday Cake Bar
Are you tired of trying to shove a full size birthday cake in your purse every morning to snack on throughout the day? No? Just me? Well, in any case, now you can have your cake and it (on the go) too.
Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter
I know, I know. It's not the season, and you're soooo over the whole pumpkin spice thing, right? (You're not and neither am I, but we'll keep that between us.) Trader Joe's Cookie Butter is already famous, but they upped the game with pumpkin spice.
Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend
Probably the best way to introduce this product is with Trader Joe's own sensational marketing material:
"As They Might Be Giants famously sang, 'There’s only one everything.' Just think about it. Try counting up all the everythings in existence. You’ll quickly conclude that only one everything is sufficient—or even possible."
Is your mind blown? Same. In any case, this blend of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic & onion, and sea salt flakes would be delicious on anything from chicken, to dips, to mac & cheese.
Roasted Garlic and Onion Jam
You may not want to make out with anyone after eating this, but who cares because making out with someone would just waste precious time you could be spending smearing this over crackers or just eating it straight from the jar.
What to do if you loved mom's PB&J bars but you're an adult woman on the go and whipping out a gooey, oozy sandwich on the subway isn't exactly a great look? Joe's to the rescue, with PB&J bars that are socially acceptable to snack on in public.
Uncured Bacon Jam
Strange, savory jams is where Trader Joe's really comes into its own. Well, I think so at least. When I put this in my mom's shopping cart once, she looked at me the way you might look at someone who had just farted loudly in public and asked: "What am I even supposed to put this on?"
Everything, mom. Everything.
Popcorn in a Pickle
Ernest Solvay, a Belgian chemist once said: "There are no limits to what science can explore." It is widely believed he said this after eating a bag of pickle popcorn.