On my last trip to the grocery store, I noted that my favorite frozen pizza had jacked up the price and cut the quantity of ingredients. Not saying they're really low on toppings, but it's now called Sausage and Pepperono.
Let's check the pasta aisle. The only sauce left was "traditional style," which was a pity because our particular tradition involves putting it on spaghetti, and there wasn't any.
Over to frozen sausage. The box I usually buy was $2.29 last year. It's now $3.29, and I think that reflects the increased cost of sawdust, which they started adding a few months ago. One way to get your daily fiber, I suppose. I keep checking the box to see if the ingredient list has "Play-Doh" before "pork."
I suppose this is all my fault for showing up at 7 p.m. and expecting to buy things. I don't know if it's supply chain problem or lack of staff to stock the shelves, but with some stores you get the sense that they just don't care anymore. "Yeah, eggs are so expensive you wonder if the hens are all named Faberge, we get it. We have problems of our own, OK? Here's a coupon for $25 off a pound of hamburger."
Then I saw shelves that were overflowing with options. All the old varieties in profusion! It was the Halloween candy aisle, and I realized it probably was time to start setting away some stuff. You don't want to be that guy who's at the drugstore at 5 p.m. on the 31st looking at three battered sacks of off-brand candy. Milky Wheys, Butterdigits, Gentle Hillocks (Compare to Mounds!) or Mirthful Farmhands (Compare to Jolly Ranchers!).
No, you want the good stuff, and here it was — at twice the price.
Or so it seemed. I couldn't remember what I paid last year, but $20 per bag seemed steep. I was certain that the portions were smaller, too. I wouldn't be surprised to see Two Musketeers. Instead of Kit-Kat bars, just Kits.
There are four types of bags.
The first: premium brands, the stuff that kids really like. Small pieces of known-quantity confections, individually wrapped. "Fun Size," as they're called. If this small nodule of chocolate and caramel is "fun," then the regular bar must provide "ecstatic delirium."
I couldn't tell if they were smaller now. If they've shrunk, are they less fun? If a standard-issue Milky Way square has 93% of the mass of last year's edition, will kids have to eat more to achieve fun parity with 2021?
Second type: B-grade premium. This bag has the malted-milk balls, the glistening red wedges of Twizzlers, the candies that require a bit of effort, like Sweet Tarts or Starburst. I know — chewing something more than three chomps is a lot to ask of kids these days, what with their shortened attention span. They lose interest in a Starburst after two chews, and you have to jump-start them with a Skittle to focus them on the task at hand.
But a lot of kids love the B-league candies, especially the Sour Patch Kids. The brazen dichotomy of Sour Patch, the almost shocking bifurcation of experience — a puckering punch of pert tart flavor followed by the surge of chewy sweetness. It takes a clever kid to see how the candy subverts expectations and opens up new doors of perception, and most of those youths will end up in high school with brightly colored hair and nose rings. Whether Sour Patch Kids is a predictor of this or a cause of it, no one has studied.
The third tier: hard stuff for the teens who show up at 11 p.m. This includes the aforementioned Jolly Ranchers, which provide more durable candy action than any others, and also end up wedged atop a molar as securely as a crown. Now and Laters, the only candy whose name boasts that it will outlive your efforts to consume it.
The fourth type is the ultra-high premium stuff: "Reese's Peanut Butter Ghosts Enrobed in White Chocolate" was one, and you think anything that's described as "enrobed" is probably what they give away by the fistful at a Minnetonka mansion where the kids arrive by boat. Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls in small size. Have to buy a bag of those; if society collapses, these will be the barter equivalent of a $10 bill.
You feel a small sense of shame when you buy them, because you know you will "hide them" and "discover them" the day after Halloween. "Oh, look at that, completely forgot."
There was also a new entry from our Minnesota candy geniuses, Wiley Wallaby. Candy Corn Licorice with a candy shell. I have expressed in this space before my love of their black licorice, and when I pass Perham, where the company is located, I tip my hat in thanks and admiration. But licorice is a flavor, and that flavor is not candy corn, so the idea of candy-corn licorice is a logical abomination. Not that the kids would care.
So, when the kids yell, "Trick or treat," my response will be: "Sorry, all I have left is a logical abomination."
(A pause before they answer) "Can we take two?"