The Soybean Saga

I love the Trader Joe’s on upper De La Vina Street. It’s one of my favorite free breakfast hangouts. But today I was late getting to the sample booth because of an incident in the parking lot, which I think was originally designed by engineering students at the Hobbit Institute to handle the occasional donkey cart delivery but which now sees a steady stream of cars, trucks, mini vans and SUVs the size of blue whales. Not to mention all the tractor-trailer rigs with their loads of “two-buck-chuck” and flavored vitamin water.

Among other design highlights, the parking lot allows people to enter from either end, so when the lot is full, which it always is, the cars bunch up in the middle. Today, there was one spot open and two guys with graying beards in original VW vans both tried to enter it at the same time then stopped to talk about it.

“Hey man, you take it.”

“No brother, I insist, you go.”

“That’s righteous, man, but I’m working on my Karma.”

“I can dig that. Peace to you, man.”

That’s when a tiny woman in a full-sized crew cab that was jacked up so high she must have had a view of the ocean yelled: “I’m completely out of acidophilus milk!” and tried to fit between them, closely followed by half a dozen other behemoths. They didn’t quite make it. The roaring engines and squealing brake noises caused both VWs to cough, sputter and die a symbiotic death creating gridlock that spilled out onto De La Vina Street, backing traffic up to State Street and beyond. A cacophony of worrisome shouts could be heard from all directions.

“I need vegetable tapenade. Now!”

“My water crackers have no goat cheese!”

“My kingdom for some organic arugula.”

I had to park three blocks away and jog to my free breakfast with half a dozen other regulars, arriving at the rear of the store en masse.

“Thought you weren’t going to make it today,” the free samples server said.

“What? And miss out on… what are we having today anyway?” I asked.

The server smiled. “Today we are sampling fair trade soybean cakes topped with a lovely tofu mousse and soy milk drizzle.”

I waited for her to say, “Just kidding. Gotcha.” But she didn’t.

“We risked life and limb for soybeans? What happened to the chicken pot pie or the mini burritos or that cheesecake flambé you had yesterday?”

She looked around then whispered, “Management says soybean cakes aren’t moving.”

“That I can believe.”

“You know what I think the soybean problem is?” one regular asked.

“Besides the lack of any discernible flavor, you mean?”

“Yeah, besides that. I think the soybean is wrong to try to make it on its own. It should team up with something. You know, like baked beans. They teamed up with ham.”

“Or franks,” I added, an auto response from a New Englander.


“And kidney beans teamed up with those other beans to form the three-bean salad,” someone else added. “Now they’re a holiday staple.”

“And where was the lima bean,” I asked, “before it joined forces with corn kernels to form succotash? Can you imagine lima bean cakes with a soy milk drizzle?”

No one could.

The doors opened at the front of the store revealing a series of beeps, shouts and an optimistic chorus of “We shall overcome” probably being sung by the VW van guys.

“You know, when that mess gets sorted out, all those famished people will be ready to eat anything, even soybean cakes. So maybe you can stow those underneath and break out something for us regulars.”

The server looked from anxious face to anxious face, then finally nodded. “I’ve got some ‘Beat the Winter Blues Mojito Chicken Cha Cha’ that I was going to serve tomorrow. I suppose I could heat it up if you’re willing to wait a few minutes.”

We looked at the display of soybean cakes. They practically spelled out the word boring.

“We’ll wait,” we said in unison.

I checked the free beverage section. “What’s the drink for today?”

“Unfiltered, antioxidant carrot and beet juice…” she said, then quickly changed her mind. “I mean, French roast coffee, as much as you want.”

Like I said, I love Trader Joe’s.