Another Close Reading of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer"

New trim size, more dad jokes, all pumpkin everything

Did you know that it’s officially pumpkin? That time of year when the weather has turned all pumpkin-y and the frost is on the pumpkin and they hay has a pumpkin hue to it. The coffees are being spiced with pumpkins and five out of every six skus at Trader Joe’s is pumpkin or pumpkin spice(d) (more on that later).

We just got our Fearless Flyer in the mail this week (thank you Postmaster for delivering between Tuesday, September 27 –Thursday, September 29) and boy do we have a lot to say. Sorry I’m writing in the first-person plural but it rubs off after twenty-four pages. Yeah, that’s right—TJ’s went BIG this month. The trim size has increased by about two inches (in width; same height), and they sprung for eight more pages. They did not have any spare change for improving the printing method, so we are still stuck with the hazards of bad glueform binding:

Pls don’t look at my cuticles they’re dry thanks mom I know

Whatever, it’s fine. It would be weird if the product were too slick, right? This is Trader Joe’s home of everything in the world under three dollars! Anyway I read through the whole thing and now I never want to see a pumpkin ever again. The first page starts off fine, only one out of three items is pumpkin related, but there are a lot of problems. First of all, they call potato chips ‘crisps,’ which makes no sense because we are not in England, and then they take a lot of space to tell us how Trader Joe’s Ghosts & Bats are made:

They’re very crispy chips shaped like little ghosts and little bats. They’re made with potato flour that’s rolled out, into sheets like pasta. Cut into shakes like cookies, they’re oven dried, then fried in expeller pressed oil. They have just the right amount of salt added to complement the potato flavor.

Okay a lot of problems here. First of all, there are no hyphens anywhere in this booklet except in the phrase “fall-favorite,” where it absolutely does not need to be. They are sorely needed, especially in the oft-used phrase “X ounce bag.” Second, these are not potato chips, and so I guess that’s why they called them crisps? They’re like, those vegetable chips that are made out of dehydrated reconstituted vegetable matter and starch that are dyed sickly pale yellow orange and green? You know the ones. Was it necessary to tell us that potato chips—sorry, crisps—put on salt just as they’re about to leave the house, that final magical touch that really complements their natural flavor that’s definitely been fried out of them? I guess so.

That “complement,” by the way, it appears a lot. Here’s another:

One of our favorite things about our pumpkin bread is the way the subtle flavor of the pumpkin is perfectly complemented by the jaunty additions of cinnamon and nutmeg.

JAUNTY! There is so much writing here that is unnecessary because they added eight pages and like twenty column inches so they’re literally just filling space with extraneous word phrases being like “hmmm, what else to say about these pumpkin cranberry crackers? Definitely something about how the dough was made and cradled lightly before baking and how the pumpkin feels about the cranberry’s zest.” There’s also a lot of this:

Just when you think the flavor has fully revealed itself, you discover a subtle hint of citrus at the finish that really pleases the palate.

Wow the flavor really has a lot of agency here. I don’t know if I like that!

Last time, your mom wrote this wonderful newsletter. This month, your dad did. You know how I know? Under Julienned Root Vegetables, he writes:

Their shape might evoke French fries, but that’s really where the F² comparison stops

EFF-SQUARED. Hi dad. Under Herbes de Provence:

Not buying our herbaceous story? Okay. But please do buy our herbaceous Herbes de Provence.

Dad, this is embarrassing.

What we call ravioli dates back to sometimes in the 14th century, in the region now defined as Italy. Deeper culinary exploration reveals that every food culture has its own variation on the dumpling, and some are traceable as far back as the 10th century. Cut to the 21st century, and the continued evolution of the dumpling continues with Trader Joe’s Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli.

Dad, please don’t make us do the play this year at Thanksgiving?

Fucking everything is pumpkin, by the way. There’s Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries, Organic Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark, Pumpkin Biscotti, Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels, Belgian Chocolate Pumpkins, Pumpkin Joe Joe’s, Pumpkin Ice Cream (A Pumpkin Season Tradition), Mini Pumpkin Pies, Pumpkin Macarons, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Sticky Pumpkin Cake, and Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream.

“Fine,” you might say. “That seems like literally every pumpkin dessert ever made. Seems fine to me except for the part about putting chocolate together with pumpkin.” Yes, but there’s more. There’s Pumpkin Spice Granola, Pumpkin Waffles, Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal, Joe’s Pumpkin O’s, Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats, Pumpkin Body Butter, Cold Pressed Pumpkin Harvest Juice, Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn, and Pumpkin Tortilla Chips (“positioned to be the preeminent permutation of our perennially preferred plant, pumpkin”). First of all, no way to all of that. Second of all, fucking pumpkin cereal?

On the following spread, there are listings for Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps AS WELL AS Pita Crisps with Cranberries & Pumpkin Seeds. Wait hold on. Go back two paragraphs and please read where it says pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds????????????? I don’t even know how to spell pumpkmkimpinm any more. I get that it’s Pumpkin Pie seasoning as the “Spice” but this flyer is inconsistent about whether something is “spice” or “spiced” and it maddeningly includes Pumpkin Chai Spice Loaf and Pumpkin Spice Chai.

We’re on the last spread and I’m losing my goddamn mind. I’m not going to say “I’m out of my gourd,” because this flyer does it at least three times for me. There’s Pumpkin Vinaigrette, which cannot be any good. After that it gets really fucked up: This Pumpkin Walks Into A Bar (cereal bars), Orange is the New Pumpkin. (just actual pumpkins), Haunted House. Boo! (a haunted house kit), and this thing that I can’t even talk about:

Please send help

On the back cover slash last page, there is a listing for Pumpkin Spice Coffee Two Ways:

Because the flavors come from real spices and seasonings, the overall profile is much more subtle than if we’d tossed in a bunch of artificial “junk,” We like it better this way. Brewed and black, its flavor is smooth and subtly spiced. If you add milk and sugar, those flavors are amplified.


I’ll leave you with this cartoon about shaved Brussels sprouts. My commentary consists of the ballpoint pen rectangle I drew around it. Thank you and have a good pumpkin.