Don sits down to dinner, unaware his Trader Joe’s life as he knows it is about to change. I’ve cooked Skillet Chicken, a tasty concoction–onions, celery, carrots sautéed in olive oil, sliced chicken breast added and sautéed, then add tomatoes, chicken broth and basil. Serve over cooked pasta. Sprinkling of parmesan. Voila. Yummy meal. The pasta is, of course, Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat, origin unclear. It’s my favorite whole wheat pasta. The only one I like. Not mushy, which whole wheat pasta can be. But when the last of it runs out, I won’t buy more.
I’d planned to ease into the TJ’s-boycott topic gradually. Don didn’t grow up in a household like mine; didn’t have a Hollywood Dad / inventor / wannabe political activist and eight siblings jostling for attention. It was Don, his two well-behaved brothers, and their Cunningham / Cleaver-like parents. Spontaneous change, as a concept, didn’t exist. This is a good thing. People like me need people who’ve grown up like that, and vice-versa. Yin yang. Balance. The world tilting, just so, on its axis. So last night, knowing he’d had a long day seeing patients in the office and at the hospital, followed by phone calls to other patients and their families, followed by still more phone calls to aforementioned patients’ subspecialists, followed by chart dictations, I asked him about his day. Oh wait, no. That’s what I’d planned to do. Instead I say this: “TJ’s is a German company. I don’t think we should shop there anymore. Sorry. Don’t hate me. I already posted it on the blog.”
He puts down his fork. Sits back in his chair. Crosses his arms, which can’t be good. I go on, explain the European connection and even the kidnapping (you can’t leave out the kidnapping) and, of course, the packaging shenanigans. He uncrosses his arms, says: “Let me get this straight. Trader Joe’s, a German company, buys food products from manufacturers here in our country at steep discounts, and those same manufacturers sell those same products to American-owned stores with different packaging for higher prices? Doesn’t seem fair to the other grocery stores those manufacturers do business with. No wonder you can’t tell where so much of the stuff comes from. It’s not right.”
Yes. Don’s on board. Let the boycott begin. We’re not delusional. We know our purchasing power is nothing in the grand scheme of things to Trader Joe’s / the Albrecht Family and their mysterious suppliers, but we’re putting our dollars elsewhere for the next year. It’ll be one family’s experiment in buying locally, closer to the source. In addition to shopping at Lunardi’s, we’ll go to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in our downtown, something we’ve been meaning to do for years. Maybe we’ll reward ourselves with Kettle Corn. Hot, sweet, salty, cooked right there, on the spot, using corn kernels harvested in the USA. Or are they? Oh no.
We can both see this year’s not going to be routine. For food alone, we’ll need to think ahead, not just scoop something up at the last minute. Don has been raised to think like this. It should be, in some ways, easier for him. Except that he typically doesn’t buy the food and cook the meals during the week. I do. And we haven’t even gotten into clothing purchases. We both need new workout shoes. And, by the way, did I mention that our first grandchild is due this April? Surely every cute bootie, blanket, and binkie is manufactured in China. And then there’s this, which I hadn’t thought about (figures) until just now when Don calls. “I’ll be out of gas in a couple of days, Teen. Where does our local gas station get their gas? Hope it’s Alaska. Can you find out?”
Menacing blinking laptop update: Made in China Dell battery arrived yesterday. Just before going to bed, I Googled “Where in China are Dell batteries manufactured?” It was like opening Pandora’s Box. Or a door to Dante’s Inferno. I’ll have to say Hell, Alex, for a hundred. And please remember: I am Sunshine Girl. I don’t like graphic, scary images. My kids preview R-rated movies for me. “No, Mom, you shouldn’t see that. Too violent.” And this Dell Chinese factory info? As my Dad used to say about many unpleasant things in life: “It ain’t pretty.” More to come.