I want to report some price gouging…oatmeal

Oatmeal is in my blood.

My mom introduced it as our daily breakfast in winter weather. She made it in a double boiler and put raisins in the top section so that they’d steam soft while the oatmeal cooked. In retrospect, this method was somewhat obsessive — I dump my dried fruit, tart cranberries, right into the oatmeal as it simmers. My brother, however, has maintained my mom’s technique; he steams his raisins.

My mother had a rather lyrical way of describing the beneficial effects of oatmeal: “It lines the stomach,” she said. It doesn’t but it feels like it does. Oatmeal for breakfast (with dried fruit) eliminates the hunger mechanism for hours longer than one would expect from a grain.

The oatmeal brand my mom made was Quaker. I suspect it was the only oatmeal available at the time. I have remained with it over the course of my life. When my compatriots were seduced by the sales pitches on $designer$ oatmeal, cut with steel or stomped down by the feet of Irish baby pangolins, I kept to my Quaker (Old-Fashioned) Oats which, unlike designer oatmeal, takes about five minutes to cook.

I’ve tried several $designer$ oatmeals. My taste buds are not so high-falutin’ they can distinguish between the types.

For me, oats is oats.

Yesterday, I wheeled my little shopping cart to Pioneer, one of the supermarkets I use. Each of my markets has its own specialité — at least one item not to be found anywhere else but stocking other things needed. I mean, I wouldn’t go to Pioneer only for the one thing they have which no one else has — a wide variety of Gullón No Sugar Added cookies beyond the incomparably yummy and sophisticated Digestive Wheatmeal Cookies which I digest a number of times a day. (Yesterday, I found a new type, Breakfast Yogurt Biscuits with Whole Grains, cholesterol free, no trans fat, luscious.) (Having inscribed them there ⇑, I had to get a couple which I am nibbling now.)

But that’s off the track, which is Oats.

I haven’t been paying attention to prices for my staples. Yet, when I got to the cereal shelves and located my Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats 42 ounce cylinder, I squinted at a label pasted on the shelf itself. Said something like the store price was $6.99, which is what it’s been for years. But the cylinder itself was priced $9.99.

That is wrong. It isn’t that I can’t afford it; I don’t want to afford it. So I didn’t.

I’ve now spent some time wondering what it is about Quaker Oats that invited such price gouging. The special Irish oatmeals are selling at the high prices they’ve always been, so why is this American cereal being treated like caviar?

Today, I suddenly thought, “Ukraine!” Grains come from Ukraine, right? That is, I’ve read that wheat comes from Ukraine but deliveries are being stymied by Russia. Immediately thereafter, I thought, “Wait — are oats wheat or what?” Does Ukraine grow most of the oats in the world?

Then I thought, “What are oats? How do they grow? And where?” Google, of course, sent me to Wikipedia for at least part of the answer, as well as a picture of growing oats, which look like long grass. I’m linking, in case you’re as granularly ignorant on this subject as I am.

And now I’ve gotten into the Quaker Oats Company website,where I learn the first trademark for a cereal was given to Quaker Oats. Lots of recipes but I’ve moved to a search for where Quaker gets its oats. South Dakota is the largest oat-growing state in the U.S. and Quaker’s central oat-milling plant is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The U.S. does import oats but not from Ukraine.

So I’m back to my initial question: why is Quaker Oats being overpriced? I have been roused to action; a search for rationally-priced Quaker Oats is about to be afoot.

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