4 Artichokes Away From Insanity: Trader Joe’s Produce Hates Single People

I only need one shallot. One shallot!

A few words for the solo cook. The singular chef that deserves more dignity than can be found in an individually portioned frozen entrée. Those who cook, really cook for themselves and find culinary joy and nutritional comfort their handy work, this one’s for you. Chances are you’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s, so chances are you, like me, are sick of its shit.

The gist is this: I’m feeling judged by a bag of seven jalapeños and enough russet potatoes to build an ocean levee and I don’t think I’m alone. The impetus for this angst has been brewing ever since my first garlic purchase back in law school and now, given this week’s artichoke incident, I find myself unable to remain a silent participant in this couple-minded packaging any longer.

Each time I open and close the refrigerator, be it for cold water or orange juice to combat whatever porcine flu the kids are coming to work with these days, there they are. Two artichokes remaining in a package of four that I know, I absolutely know I will not consume. I’ll get busy, I won’t be home for dinner, or I’ll lack the 50 minutes of patience it takes to boil one of these bitches in a pot of water after already having had said patience twice this week. And I’ll be left with hard, rock-like remnants of what used to be gorgeous artichokes that stab me in the fingertips when I go to throw them away.

Don’t even get me started on the oranges. The blood oranges, one of my favorite snacks, currently in season and unavailable at Trader Joe’s in bags of less than a dozen. A DOZEN. Apparently this grocery store is intent on helping me get my smoothie cart business off the ground.

I love cooking, I love fresh produce, and I don’t particularly despise being single. But walk me down an aisle full of pre-packaged bell peppers and cinder-block textured avocados unless they’re in a bag of five in which case they’re PERFECTLY RIPE FOR YOUR TWO LITTLE BREAKFAST TACOS SHANI and I start to slide down a hill of lonely, sad reality. Not only am I alone, but I’m a food waster. Oh how I loathe myself. If you haven’t looked in a harsh mirror lately, buy ginger at Trader Joe’s. We’ll talk in a week once you’ve only minced a thimble of it into one pot of soup.

The life a single person is an obstacle course, one that requires the fortitude of one of those lunatics on the modern day version of American Gladiators trying to leap 30 feet and catch a slippery bar with their index finger. It’s full of mines set to blast away at your self esteem and sanity at every turn. Walk down the street and notice how the hand holding couple in front of you is blocking the entire sidewalk while strolling along at the pace of an aging tortoise. Open up Instagram, what fresh wedding-related hells await you? And sure, I can chop and freeze unwanted jalapeños as easily as the next girl, I’m just saying I’m slowly losing my mind every time I do it.

Is it too much to ask then that a grocery store be a safe haven? A moment’s respite from feeling less than? Apparently yes, because Trader Joe’s packages cucumbers and tortilla chips in equal numbers.

I never seem to feel like I’m lacking anything until I have too much of something. Isn’t that just the tits? Leave it to rotting yams to put my life in perspective. It’s a mental struggle, those tubers. The problem of having no one to cook for while being okay with having no one to cook for while still being okay with wanting someone to cook for someday, all the while wanting affordable produce in volume I can actually use before decomposition sets in. I’m right on the edge, I’m telling you.

It’s exhausting, defying the notion that I’m wrong, or somehow failing for cooking in single portions. Some days, and some recipes, are harder than others. But even when I don’t feel confident in it, it’s still true that there isn’t anything wrong with being on your own, and those artichokes can eat a dick. If I make one point here, to myself, to my fellow singles, and to the culinary temple that is Trader Joe’s, let it be this: In shallots, and in life, one is enough.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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