An Even Closer Reading of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer"

Cranberrying all the way home

Where were you when your co-worker who knows you look forward to reading the Trader Joe’s monthly or bi-monthly (it’s unclear, tbh) newsletter told you about it? I was either in bed or on the floor, the only two places I have been able to work from this week:

balk [2:08 PM]
silvia there is a special thanksgiving issue of the fearless flyer

balk [2:12 PM]
it’s only 8 pp

balk [2:12 PM]
and it’s berliner format

balk [2:13 PM]
oh wait
the plot thickes

silvia [2:13 PM]

balk [2:13 PM]
half the pages are half size

silvia [2:13 PM]

balk [2:13 PM]
it is one giant sheet

balk [2:13 PM]
folder into quarters

balk [2:13 PM]
and then pp 2–5 are actually the top of the whole sheet
so it’s like a big twee poster
they saved on color too, it’s only b/w and gradations of red

First, let’s get a few things straight. It is NOT Berliner format (also known as “midi,” measuring 12.4 by 18.5 inches), and Balk, bless his heart, is a print nerd. Depending on how you unfold it, the thing’s either 10.3 by 17 inches or 20.5 by 25.5 inches. Folded up entirely it’s about 8.5 x 10.75 inches, which is the only thing close to a recognizable print-nerd trim size. But it’s also not really 8 pp (print-nerd talk for “pages,” plural). Got that? It is one giant sheet, origami’d into eight “sections” designated as pages by black sans-serif numbers in red circles. The way the pages go is frankly confusing; the order is like this:

That drawing is not to scale but it should give you a good sense of how confusing this month’s “Fearless Flyer” is. You’ll just have to infer where pages 1, 4, 5, and 8 are from that drawing, because frankly I didn’t feel like spending that much time on, but I think you get it. It’s confusing and unfolds sort of funny, almost like a regular newspaper, but worse. Imagine trying to read this on the subway!! No thank you. No wonder print is dead.

Why does this image say fg. 1? Shouldn’t it be fig. 1? Where did the “i” go? There are approximately six other “figures” on this newsletter, none of which are labelled. And the caption also says “Figure 1.” What is “further obsolete?” Or should I ask, where?

Moving on, let’s jump right into the content. This is indeed the Thanksgiving Edition of FF, and it is designed like a newspaper, sort of, with a header at the top, a little teaser about what’s inside where you might otherwise find the weather (cloudy with a chance of pumpkin). The first thing we encounter is a section titled “November Roses.” Don’t worry, seasonal monsters—winter roses are actually A Thing (but don’t try Googling “November Roses” because all you’ll get is Axl Rose’s weird epic). What is not a thing, however, is “20-Stem Red Roses.” A rose with twenty stems? The implied subject here of course is “bunch,” but now all I see is thorns. And anyway, why must you specify the number of stems? Is that not correlated to the number of blooms, possibly like directly, in a one-to-one relationship? The paragraph warns, “a voluminous 20-stem bunch of top-bred, long-stemmed Red Roses may prompt a passionate gasp between autumnal lovers.” Are they bred from the top? Nothing about these roses sounds romantic, also November is an awful time for romance. Give me a poinsettia and a dry peck on the cheek instead.

The next section is called “Dinner in a Chip” and begins, “Science fiction tells us that some day, entire meals will be available in a single pill.” I don’t know about you but I didn’t think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was really sci-fi but maybe that’s because I was more focused on the chocolate river. In any case, has Joe ever heard of soylent, or cricket bars? The paragraph goes on to say something about kettle-cooked potato chips that are flavored like turkey and stuffing but this is really missing the point because chips are only slightly less filling than a pill.

By this point I am starting to worry that the person who writes TJ’s “Fearless Flyer” has been living in a bunker since 1997 and is also just making most of this stuff up because there’s an entry for Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer, “Made with the juice of whole raspberries and cranberries (33 raspberries and 19 cranberries per bottle to be exact).” ????????????????????

First of all, did anyone else ever used to drink these things? Crystal Geyser Juice Squeeze? That’s what these are, and we’re in middle school now, and this is soda but no one knows it yet. Keep an eye on the cranberry though, it’s gonna show up a couple more times, I bet.

Sure enough, when you flip the page, or the top of the page, however you want to think bout it, you see a feature about “Five Ways to Cranberry.” Actually don’t worry about that just yet because it’s on page 6 and technically you’re supposed to keep the top flap folded down to read pages 2 and 3 (this makes no sense). Here you can find information about the various selections of turkeys, turkey breasts, and soy protein roasts you can purchase in time for The Big Food Holiday. But you can also find two particularly offensive word usages that I want to call out and make fun of.

First, isn’t it annoying when people use the word “task” as a verb? Yes, thank you, it is. “She was tasked with synthesizing the work products,” said one consultant to the other. “Our Organic Thanksgiving Herb Bouquets are up to the task,” claims Trader Joe’s. Okay, that’s acceptable. “And at $3.99 each, they won’t task your wallet.” -_- Thanks, but my wallet is busy eliminating redundancies.

The next one should theoretically please me but I assure you it does not. Under the header, “We’re On Your Sides”—ostensibly about meal sides, like mashed potatoes and rice and stuffing but sadly only reminiscent of my actual sides, the ones on my body just above my hips, where my hands are about to go—there is a section about Cornbread Stuffing Mix. I have no problem with this delicious and not-so-novel side dish. What I take issue with is the insistence on unnecessary wordplay in the following sentence: “By adding broth (or water) and butter, it instantly transforms into a fluffy, moist farce.*” Emphasis theirs, if you can believe it. Below this entry, the asterisk reads:

*“stuffing,” not “comic buffoonery.”

Ooooooookaaayyyyyyy. Sure. I mean, sure, yes, I know that the word comes from the literal French word for “stuffing,” farcir, and you know actually it is kind of interesting to draw the line from food-stuffing to theatrical stuffing by way of the phrase “forcemeat stuffing,” but frankly I would prefer to have this conversation out in the open air, and never ever committed to ink and paper with winky italics and explicative asterisks.

The last thing I want to address on the flap is a woman taking a soak in a gravy boat. Disgusting and unhygienic! Do you think I should try it? I mean as long as we’re putting snail goo on our faces, it couldn’t hurt right? Haha just kidding I’m not letting MEAT SAUCE anywhere near my privates.

Beneath the fold you’ll find a Turkey Roasting Guide, which has like three subtitles per entry, and STEP ONE begins, “Gather Ingredients.” I’ll just give you the rest here and move on to Cranberries:

Cranberrying: a verb? Yea or nay? Two of the ways to “cranberry” are “Cranberries” and “Dried Cranberries,” and the other three are cranberry sauces, so how does that inform your answer?

The middle of the broadsheet is a lot of boring potato and vegetable stuff, kind of like the Thanskgiving sides are in real life. I will pause here however to point out the inconsistent use of “portabella” versus “portabello,” and the all together unforgivable phrase “Baby Bella Mushrooms.” The thing about the p*rt*b*ll*s is not even that I feel so deeply in my heart that there is one true correct spelling, given how many “o” sounds in Italian actually sound more like an “ah,” just that people continue to Samuel Johnson the word into tiny splinters. (Yes, I just used the dictionary man as a verb. Proper noun verbs are cool.)

Last but not least, the back page. Which is also the upside-down second and third page if you accidentally left it unfolded like I did. A two-column header announces “Another Take On Turkey & Potatoes,” the same way that every food-related publication must do, year in and year out. The first item in this section is abhorrently confusing and it took me three reads to realize it wasn’t a ginger-and-molasses-basted turkey. The Gingerbread Turkey Kit is an assemble-your-own cookie “tableau” that “stands out for its non-house-like qualities.” Okay so I get that it’s supposed to be a turkey in place of a Gingerbread House, but then what is the powdered-sugar icing for, besides perhaps those little white booties that look like tiny chef’s hats that no one has ever put on a turkey ever? It also comes with the traditional adornments: chocolate buttons, colorful fruit gums and nonpareils, so that you can put candy on a turkey which is again disgusting and does not mimic any kind of dressing or decoration traditionally done to turkeys at Thanksgiving (at least at my house).

Just when I think Trader Joe’s has gotten a little too carried away with dorkiness, they actually had a very good idea. Pecan Pie (Filling) In A Jar. This is rather a clever thing to sell and it probably looks disgusting, sort of like the jar of oatmeal and fruit fly larvae that made Ramona Quimby barf at age 8. Just add butter and eggs, dump it into a pie crust and you’re all set! It costs $6.99 which is frankly expensive but then again so are pecans I think so let’s just call it even. Thanks, Trader Joe’s!