Here I am. I have arrived.
My current and temporary residence is a cute, sensible Arts and Crafts era two story bungalow. The house is divided into apartments - upstairs and downstairs. Me, I am downstairs. My neighborhood is everything I hoped it would be. Or rather, my neighborhood is everything I hope for when I am with cash flow. Currently though, I am without. The restaurants I can't afford to eat at, the shops I can't afford to shop in and the salons I can't afford to salon in. I am not complaining. I am an avid window shopper and am just happy to be surrounded by pretty things to look at and pretty houses to jog past. It really is the cutest little place ever! I also have the loveliest roommate ever. I was greeted this morning (at 6am) with a hot cup of coffee. She works crazy hours too, so was able to offer me this wee bit of comfort before I slogged off to class. But that's a different story for a different day. I'll share those stories in a few days when I have a better sense of what I'm in for.
Back to the matter at hand... where I live right now.
As I was saying, it's a fantastic little place. Fancy enough to make me feel lucky, but not so fancy that I'm out of place. However, things are not all wine and roses and fancy yoga studios. There is a terrible terrible void in my neighborhood. It appears to be lacking in grocery stores. As I have only explored one street though, I'm sure I'll find a different one. I do hope so, because I just returned from a trip to Trader Joes, and, well, I don't get it.
In real life I live far far far from a Trader Joes, although I've heard the rumblings of a committee to bring one to Austin being started. I've missed the hooplah, so to speak. I've only been a few times, so perhaps my impression of the place is poorly informed. If so, I stand corrected.
Firstly, on the plus side I can't knock Charles Shaw (or rather, the aptly nicknamed Two Buck Chuck) or the wall o' coffee blends. I've gotta get my fixes just like the next girl. I am a creature of addictions and that is fine by me. But that's where it all falls to bits.
I guess I judge a store by their produce department. I just realized this about myself today, hence the "I guess". I have no idea how to judge their produce though because every single item short of the citrus was wrapped in plastic. Wrapped in plastic!! I couldn't even get a single onion without it being encased in a mesh baggy. Further, I couldn't find any parsley. None. But that's another story.
In a store that touts itself as selling so many organically grown and raised items, I find it completely bewildering that wrapping everything in plastic and shipping it from some far away industrial food depot doesn't seem to be a problem. Doesn't that somehow counteract the goodness of the organic? I consider organic eating as much for my health as for the health of the planet. That packaging though, that packaging is a thorn in the side of organic-ness.
I have to admit something to you all, something most of my closest friends don't know. I reuse packaging as much as possible. I reuse produce bags for my produce, I reuse ziploc bags for my freezer, I reuse plastic lidded containers for my bulk items. I realize I am a bit fanatical about it, I can live with that. But I also realize there is no point in tossing a perfectly good container simply because its contents are used up. I work hard to create as little waste as possible. There, I said it. And there. Now you know why I am so very angry at Trader Joe's. They wrap everything in packaging that can't possibly be reused. Vacuum sealed veggies? On styrofoam trays? Really? Really.
I just marvel at the fact that in this environmental crisis that we are experiencing Trader Joe's can get away with creating so much waste. In California no less.
I know there are a lot of shopping options here, and I plan to use them. But, I felt it was something I had to say. I've heard a lot about Trader Joe's and how fantastic the store is. I'm not saying the store doesn't have its merits. Surely it does, but I just have fallen short in recognizing them.
[Note: No parsley. Also, flash. My hours are wackadoo!]
Nonetheless, to celebrate my last trip to Trader Joe's, I bring you a pasta made entirely from Trader Joe's brand products. It's been a favorite of mine for years and I turn to it whenever I want something light, yet bolstered with a bit of protein and intense flavor. It's also... student food.
I want so badly to take the time to cook a big luxurious meal, but that will wait until the weekend. For now I'll nourish myself on thrown together pasta and a generous glass of Charles Shaw. Honestly, I can't think of a better way to close a long day of class coupled with a mildly crippling commute. Ahhhhh.... student food.
Adapted from the Martha Stewart website
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium cloves minced garlic
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices lengthwise
1/2 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 14 oz can roasted whole plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick lengthwise, with juice
4 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut into quarters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper flakes
1 can oil-packed Italian-style light tuna, drained
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Bring saucepan of salted water to boil. Pour oil in large skillet; place over medium heat. Add anchovies and stir till melted. Add garlic and onions; saute until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, about 11 minutes. Add tomatoes, juice, capers, and olives to onions; add cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. I like it very spicy myself. Raise the heat to medium high, and cook until tomatoes are heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain pasta; transfer to large serving bowl. Add sauce, tuna, and parsley; toss gently to combine. Top with lots of grated parmesan.