I walk slowly down the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s, my eyes desperately searching for my favorite dark and milk chocolate covered cashews among the long row of chocolate-covered items on the shelf above the freezer.
There are dark chocolate covered cashews, milk and dark chocolate covered almonds, but the dark and milk chocolate cashews are nowhere to be found. Just like the hot & sweet mustard that disappeared off TJ’s shelves last fall, the cashews have vanished without a trace.
My left aorta seizes for a moment, disrupting my balance as I come to the realization that another of my beloved treats will be my beloved no more. If I were one to shed tears like those weepy contestants on "the Bachelor" or "Dancing with the Stars,' I might shed one now, but I am too firm a soldier for such overly emotive behavior. Especially with so many vicious shoppers in my immediate vicinity. I’ll save the Kleenex’s for a truly desperate situation – like if TJ’s ever decides to discontinue the Soy Creamy Cherry Chip ice cream which seems to only be in stock on Saturday mornings (never on Thursday nights when I am hit with a massive craving).
I sigh, gather my bearings, and make the big girl decision to buy the chocolate almonds instead. Almonds are healthier than cashews, anyway, I tell myself. And I can justify eating more than the paltry five cashews I normally eat for my lunch dessert.
I’m about to head to the dried fruit and nut section to secure another two bags of dried cranberries (I have a weird compulsion to buy at least one or two bags every single time I step into a Trader Joe’s), when I spot another type of chocolate covered almond in a smaller tub.
“Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds: reads the yellow mustard colored label. I glance down at the milk and dark variety. Then back up at the sea salt ones. Then back down again.
While I do adore the sweet and salty combination like it was the spawn of my own brain, it’s a gamble. The almonds look slightly chalky – like they might leave a trail of cocoa dust on my hands, clothes and mouth. I’m not so good with chocolate as it is. My skirts are perpetually stained with small smears of muddy brown from my indecorous consumption of the product, and I routinely discover chocolate freckles on my face hours after I’ve eaten my dessert.
It’s kind of a problem.
I decide to go with the original dark and milk chocolate almonds, grab my dried crans and then head to the cash register to check out. I study the basket contents of the woman in front of me (a habit of mine – I like to make superficial judgments about people based on their TJ’s must haves) and see the sea salt almonds huddled next to a bag of carrots and some containers of Greek yogurt.
It’s a sign, I think, and immediately set down my basket and race back to the freezer section to make my almond swap.
When I dig into the almonds a couple days later, I’m not sure that I like them. The salt is assaulting at first, and I’m not sure I detect the turbinado sugar part of the equation. The dark chocolate shell is nice though. Properly bitter, but still sweet enough to set my insulin levels aflutter. I’m also pleased to discover that the chalky exterior is only chalky in appearance and doesn’t leave the dreaded trail of evidence I was concerned about. I finish my six almonds and feel satisfied, but don’t have any inclination to vocalize my appreciation with any yummy noises. I also don’t feel immediately inclined to e-mail my friend Ali about them, as I do on occasions of great food product discoveries.
But then the next day, I find myself looking forward to my after lunch treat. Sometime during the past 24 hours, the almonds went from being pleasant to crave-worthy. And today, one month later, they’ve become a staple in my red Hawaiian TJ’s bag. I’m not to the point of buying a tub or two on every visit (like with the crans), but I can easily imagine reaching that level in the future. Especially given TJ’s propensity to discontinue all my favorite products.