Over Easy: Inflation nation

For the Valley News
Published: 3/17/2023 5:45:27 PM
Modified: 3/17/2023 11:52:42 PM

The canary in the coal mine was an egg in the supermarket.

   One night, not very long ago, I was picking up a couple of groceries. I grabbed some milk and bread, and perhaps something sweet, or maybe for once I was being good.

I made the turn to the last aisle and the eggs. I’d heard something about a bird disease affecting supply, but hadn’t paid much attention to it, or prices. I don’t eat eggs much, but keeping some on hand seems like tradition, a bulwark against flood and famine, a patriotic duty.

What are we without eggs, bread and milk?

The egg section was almost empty. The only thing left were organic ones produced by chickens who lived mindfully in a free-range, feather-affirming farm with little stress and full equality (no pecking order).

If I remember correctly, the price was close to $8. “WHAT HAPPENED?” I said out loud, peering into the case. A woman who was also taking in the state of the U.S. egg supply knew what I meant. “Yeah, right,” she answered.

Like all good seniors, I’ve been tut-tutting and even clucking (when appropriate) about rising prices, feeling poorer daily even though we received an 8.7% cost-of-living increase in Social Security this year. Don’t tell anyone under 62, but we might actually be ahead of the game.

Still, prices are getting me down. Some involve major purchases. Million-dollar homes in Hanover now cost $2 million or more. I tut-tut so hard it makes my jaw ache.

Used car prices also annoy. At the chain dealers who dominate in Lebanon-Hartford, there are hardly any gotta-get-to-work semi-beaters that would make a suitable second car for someone like me who doesn’t care about cars. Where are the Buick Centurys of yore that went for, say, $3,000? I looked the other morning and one of the dealers had a basic sort of car for over $13,000 with over 130,000 miles. Does it come with an on-call mechanic?

We need some little guys, like Honest John’s Motors or Fred’s Cut-Rate Cars — “Friend of the Working Man.” We are bereft of friends, consumers.

Because I grow older, I am also irked by less consequential things, like prices that remind me of happier, cheaper days. Just recently in Walmart, I saw a single-serve Hostess Fruit Pie for $1.58. It took me back to my youth, approximately age 12, when I could buy one — considerably larger — for a quarter. Because of my paper route, I had a ready supply of quarters. (And kids, they had actual silver in them!)

Oh, how I loved those cherry pies with their better-living-through-chemistry goodness. Sweeter than ice cream, goopy as car grease, they made America great.

The contemporary version contains these fine ingredients, according to Walmart: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Cherries, Palm Oil, Water, Glycerine, Modified Cornstarch, Contains 2% Or Less: Salt, Preservatives (Sodium Propionate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid), Flour (Malted Barley, Wheat), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum, Calcium Carbonate, Agar-Agar, Mono- And Diglycerides, Sorbitan Monostearate, Natural Flavor, Red 40, Soy Lecithin. Contains Soy, Wheat. May Contain Pits. Contains Bioengineered Food Ingredients.


But how did we get to this sorry state of inflation: everything, everywhere, all at once? Don’t blame me. Our income crawls upward slowly, and we rarely buy yachts.

My guess is that due to the pandemic, working people somehow ended up with extra money in their pockets, a condition that all the forces in the global economic order are supposed to prevent. Supply chain problems created a shortage of air fryers, and drove up prices for tight bicycle shorts, Chia Pets, fidget spinners, moon lamps and other essentials. Retailers learned they could raise prices and pump up profits.

Hooray, corporate retailers.

Workers have used up their leverage while retailers are still going at it. Even the Walmart corporation said many recent wholesale price increases are not justified.

Boo, corporate retailers.

One thing I’ve noticed is that bananas and bags of potatoes are still pretty good buys, which gives me something to work with. Coming soon are recipes for Potato-Banana Bread, Potato-Banana Casserole, Potato-Banana Smoothies and Slow-Cooker Potato-Banana Surprise. Not only that, but blended potatoes and bananas would make a lovely facial skin treatment and, with sufficient supplies at hand, could be used to fill a flat tire in an emergency.

The real answer in these times is not to buy stuff, so the effective personal inflation rate is zero. But what if I really do want one of those air fryers?

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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