Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's Your Gripe?

    Last week I decided to supplement my usual evening snack of Cheetos and Coke with a can of Campbell's Chicken Soup. When I reached the bottom of my bowl, I realized I had seen no chicken. After emptying the can I found plenty of noodles but still no chicken. This called for study so I read carefully the label's list of ingredients and found chicken stock, noodles, chicken flavoring and chicken fat, AND chicken meat, plus assorted unpronounceable words.
     So! Where's my meat? Who got my chunks of chicken?

     Hunting that piece of chicken reminded me of the one constant in our canned goods: that little piece of fat in a can of pork and beans. I've never known it to disappear or to change and pork and beans have been on the market since 1885 when Heinz started commercially canning their version. Frank Van Camp, an Indianapolis grocer, remembered the popularity of his family's old recipe for salt pork with beans and tomato sauce and opened a canning company and has produced this staple of picnics and quick meals.
     I have fond memories of many Sunday dinners of pork and beans and deviled eggs, equally as tasty as another standby: fried chicken. At 5¢ a can it was a bargain. What a relief that nothing has changed...except the price!
     My discovery that the chunk of chicken was missing came on the same evening that the news reported that our rate of inflation was at 2.9%, no surprise to anyone who had been to the grocery store recently. There are several explanations for the increases, most of which we've heard before. There is always some crises causing these price increases. It is a puzzle, however, why prices never drop when the crises is over.
      I understand how the weather can make or break any agricultural venture. I also understand that if a business does not make a profit it cannot continue, unless, as we have seen, the government steps in with assistance; and that's another subject, entirely!
     We must eat and to stay reasonably healthy we need some of the most expensive of grocery items;  fresh fruits and vegetables. Price a large apple and you're courting a heart attack. 
     In its simplest form, our economy is based on a producer, a seller, and a consumer. What is going to happen when the later has no more money?

Leave my chunks of chicken alone!