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How Our Apartment Became Our Home

September 17, 2013

The travelog is coming. It’s just going to have to wait. I still have a lot of catching up to do from the trip. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to take an international vacation the first week of school after a month of wandering the northeast.

But it was a blast.

And what’s done is done. Yesterday I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to solve a mail forwarding problem and a lot of time doing laundry. There was also the matter of going to three different stores to pick up a bunch of household goods.

Despite the relatively short time we’ve lived in this new apartment, which doesn’t even have any of our own furniture within its walls, the place already feels like home. Actually, it started to feel like home on day two. And there was one thing that really made it click. Naturally, it has something to do with food.

Through all of our August travels, we were guests in someone else’s home. All of our hosts and hostesses were amazing. In many ways, the places where we stayed were more comfortable than the home we left.

But there was one thing missing. Really, a few things. And those became painfully obvious after my first big grocery shopping trip in Princeton. For what it’s worth, I feel awful admitting to this.

Our brands.

I feel awful because in many ways, food shouldn’t have brands. Food should be cooked from locally sourced ingredients. It should look different state to state. The varieties of tomatoes in New Jersey should be different from what’s grown in rural Pennsylvania which should be different from the ones grown in upstate New York.

Convenience foods have brands. They have packaging. They have marketing budgets. And even many of the relatively smaller ones are part of large corporate entities.

But having our staple pantry items from Trader Joe’s, including the kids favorite peanut butter, Mrs. Fussy’s favorite frozen French green beans, and my favorite organic 100% whole grain pasta, converted our kitchen from a strange and foreign place to a comfortable and familiar one.

It made me think about showing up to Albany the first time with no Trader Joe’s in the immediate area. It’s not even necessarily that the Trader Joe’s items are the best of the best. it’s just that for better or for worse they have become part of the fabric of our lives.

Imagine using only Ivory soap your whole life and moving to a place where it wasn’t available. No, it’s not the end of the world. There is plenty of other soap. Maybe even better soaps. But it’s not your soap.

And it’s not just Trader Joe’s. It’s also our cans of Polar seltzer, Mrs. Fussy’s favorite Evan Williams bourbon, the Fussy LIttle Children’s 100% whole wheat “bread” from Arnold and Cascadian Farms granola bars, just to name a few.

A “Taste of Home” is a powerful thing across the board, and it can refer to many things. ADS makes a matzoh ball soup which I consider to be a taste of home. I consider RAF’s black bean recipe to take me back to a similar place.

But it can also come from branded ingredients and packaged foods. Even if those items are industrially produced and marketed. And I suppose I’m lucky that my favorites are available across a growing portion of the country.

Although I have to admit, none of them had any appeal after this recent trip to Paris. Maybe that’s another side benefit to foreign travel? It’s easier to go on a diet when you return.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2013 9:39 am

    You are almost exactly 100 miles from your closest Stewart’s too… You would have to drive to Goshen for your Philly Vanilla. This is terribly sad. My powers weaken the further I get from St. Peter’s Hospital, I’m convinced.

  2. September 17, 2013 10:39 am

    But look at all the opportunity to explore new things, like Kind granola bars…excellent. There has got to be some farmers markets in Princeton and maybe you can find out if they supply any local stores. Get out there and do some searching.

  3. September 17, 2013 1:29 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with having favorite brands — especially since some of those things just can’t be made/grown at home (like, say, dishwasher detergent).

    • September 17, 2013 2:48 pm

      I make my laundry detergent out of gluten free kale.

      • September 17, 2013 5:51 pm

        Must like green clothes ;-)

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