One of my greatest internet peeves is when people proclaim that a given property—a movie, a book, a TV show, a candy bar, a fast food franchise—is “underrated,” when in fact they simply mean that they love it. Not to be nitpicky, but these two sentiments are not one and the same! (And by the way, just because you dislike something does not mean that it’s “overrated,” either. I don’t like A New Hope, but its standing in American pop culture feels more than fair.)
But some things we adore really are underappreciated by the masses, and in those cases, it’s fun to sing their praises from the rooftops for all to hear. Trader Joe’s, that much heralded grocery chain that so enchants American shoppers, carries many products that people can’t get enough of: Mandarin Orange Chicken, Everything But The Bagel seasoning, soup starters, and cheap wine, to name a few. With all this love shown to TJ’s, you’d think it would be hard to find underrated products on its shelves. But there is one item that I’ve been buying there for 20 years, one that consistently delights and satisfies, has a million uses, and doesn’t seem to have entire fan clubs dedicated to it (yet): Trader Joe’s Traditional Olive Tapenade. Have you tried it? You can heap some onto a cracker, mix it with cream cheese and spread it on a bagel, toss some into a salad, add it to pasta with goat cheese and a squeeze of lemon—the list goes on. I know people get really excited about Trader Joe’s frozen entrees (and rightfully so), but the refrigerator case has some exciting finds as well, and it’s time they got their due.
Do you have any underrated favorites at Trader Joe’s? I fully understand if you decide to withhold your answer, because I know the old fear: if an item gets too popular, it might not be available to you the next time you go shopping. Still, I hope you throw caution to the winds and show some love to the power players of your grocery cart.