I grew up just outside Pasadena, California — the birthplace of Trader Joe's — with a father who was an early fan of the quirky chain of grocery stores, so my childhood was spent eating peanut butter-filled pretzels and wrapping my textbooks in inside-out Trader Joe's paper bags. In college, I introduced many an out-of-state classmate to the wonders of Two-Buck Chuck, and as an adult, I shopped so consistently at the same Trader Joe's location, I actually created a shopping list template for it.
So you can imagine my horror last year when, amid the excitement of a move from Los Angeles to New Orleans, I discovered that the closest Trader Joe's would be in Baton Rouge, about an hour and a half away. So deep was the loss, I literally shook my fist at the sky and said, "NOOOOO!" like I was cursing a vengeful god.
A year later, I can tell you: it doesn't get any better.