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It’s the Great Pumpkin Shortage, Charlie Brown!

November 18, 2009

Could this be the Year Without a Pumpkin Pie?  Or pumpkin cheesecake?  Or pumpkin soufflé?  Well, every year’s the year without a pumpkin soufflé in my house, but folks, this is not a joke: there could very well be a shortage of canned pumpkin this holiday season.

According to food giant Nestlé, consumers can expect a shortage of Libby’s brand pumpkin on store shelves, a week before Thanksgiving, inarguably the biggest pumpkin-consuming event of the year.  Heavy rains drenched the company’s thousand acres-plus of pumpkin fields, preventing harvesting equipment from getting in and picking the entire crop. The company claims that acres upon acres of pumpkins sit unharvested in inaccessible fields in Morton, Illinois – the “pumpkin capital of the world.”  (who knew?).  As a result, less pumpkin has been picked and canned, leading to an anticipated shortage.  The longer the pumpkins sit in these muddy fields, the more likely it is the quality of the pumpkin has declined. Officials have determined that pumpkin which fails to meet Nestlé’s quality standards will be plowed under.

If you’re the type of person who  just can’t live without a pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving or Christmas table, you’d better head to the grocery store TODAY and stock up on the canned pumpkin you think you’ll need.  Nestlé claims the pumpkin drought could be pretty severe, draining store supplies even before Thanksgiving arrives, a mere 8 days from now.  And the worst part – there won’t be any more pumpkin until the August 2010 harvest!

To help its disappointed customers (somehow) make it through, Nestlé is encouraging bakers to visit www.VeryBestBaking.com, where they’ll find new recipes added to the pie collection.  All I know is: Grandma better have already bought her canned pumpkin, because if she shows up at my house without a pie, I’m gonna slam the door in her 80-year old face.

In other food-shortages-related-to-heavy-rains news:  Leggo My Eggo!   There’s an Eggo waffle shortage happening AS WE SPEAK.   Grocery stores will be experiencing a shortage of the waffles until mid-2010 due to problems at two bakeries in Atlanta, accoring to a Kellogg’s spokeswoman.   Back in September, samples of Buttermilk Eggo waffles tested positive for the bacteria listeria.  (Listeria has been linked to meningitis and encephalitis, according to the Food and Drug Administration.  Yum.)   Kellogg issued a recall of two of its products, although no illnesses had been reported.   Then, after they eliminated the listeria, heavy rains in October caused flooding, shutting down production temporarily.  And, to make bad matters worse, equipment at Kellogg’s largest waffle facility in Tennessee needs extensive repairs.  Talk about a perfect storm!

The end result of this string of waffle-tastrophes: a limited supply of Eggo waffles, which will be heavily rationed to grocery stores around the nation.  This shortage affects not only waffles, but other Eggo products, including  pancakes, syrup and other breakfast food.  My grocery store (Hannaford in Clifton Park) has had signs in the freezer case doors for a couple weeks now, explaining the shortage.   What’s a waffle-lover to do?

I have an idea – go with me on this: how about making your own homemade waffles?  Or maybe even buying a waffle mix?  And – you may even have to resort to using (gasp) real locally-produced maple syrup!  Crazy talk, I know.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, my friends.   Finally, if you need an alert the minute Eggos make it back on the shelves, Kellogg’s has provided a handy-dandy little email notification service that will keep you updated with the latest breaking waffle news.

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