The year is coming to an end, and for those of who live in the Northeast, last weekend’s blizzard was certainly a dramatic conclusion. For Mainers, the weather was not terribly extreme, and it slowed us down only for a day or so. For New York City, where my eldest daughter Dee lives, it was quite another matter. Twenty inches of snow in a city the size of New York is a real challenge. But New Yorkers, plucky souls that they are, seem to have dealt with it just fine.
The storm meant that Dee had to delay her travel plans back to New York City, and we were happy to have her for an extra day. She had come home a week before Christmas to help me get ready for the big event, and I’m not sure what I would have done without her help. (Unfortunately, my youngest daughter Shannon had the flu and spent the entire week on her couch.) I suppose I would have somehow slogged through if Dee hadn’t been here, but the radiation treatment has left me extremely tired, and even with Dee’s help, I was exhausted by the time Christmas was over.
Anyway, it was a great gift to have Dee help me make toffee and shortbread and ice cream pies and stuffed shells and cheddar cheese soup. None of these dishes are complicated, but they all take time. And energy.
On Tuesday, I brought Dee to Portland, to the bus station, so that she could head home to New York, and I decided to stop by Trader Joe’s, which opened a month or so ago. Because I went midafternoon, parking was no problem, the way it is at the end of the day.
There’s been a lot of fuss about Trader Joe’s, and since I had never been to one, I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be. As it turned out, I had mixed feelings about it. There is a lot of organic food—fresh fruit, vegetables, packaged food, meat. Readers of my blog know that I am keen about organic food and try to buy as much as I can, even though my husband and I live on a modest budget. As someone who has had breast cancer, I feel that organic food is good for the body as well as for the planet.
At Trader Joe’s, the prices for organic food can’t be beat, and for those on a very limited budget, it is the place to shop. I bought three pounds of grass-fed, hormone-free beef, three pounds of organic chicken, a pound of hormone-free ham, organic pasta and sauce, organic eggs, and some other items. The bill came to $59, which was so reasonable I could hardly believe it.
But, and this is a big “but,” as far as I could tell, there was no local food at all—no Kate’s Butter, no Oakhurst—and indeed most of the food seemed to be shipped from across the country, which gives the food a huge carbon footprint. (Readers, if you know otherwise, please let me know.) While I am concerned about my own personal health, I am also concerned about climate change, local food, and local economies.
So…here is what I would recommend for those with a comfortable budget: Shop for local food at other stores or markets and then fill in with nonlocal food at Trader Joe’s. For those on a tight budget, shop at Trader Joe’s and then buy as much local, organic food as you can afford.
There’s no way around it. Food has become a complicated issue. (The Far Right has started grumbling about healthy food and how it’s a socialist plot.) But it certainly gives me plenty to write about, which I will be doing in 2011.
Happy New Year to you all. May you have a year of good cooking, good food, good friends, and family.