Since the culture came down with a case of the COVIDs, we've had rolling shortages of many necessities. Let's recap: pasta, flour, rice, meat, chicken, toilet paper, aluminum cans, paper bags, coins, sofas, ovens and sanity.

You may think it's over. It's not. According to the New York Times, we have run out of ... Grape-Nuts.

You think: That is impossible. It is difficult to conceive of a situation where the demand for Grape-Nuts exceeds supply. No, hold on. The planet has been attacked by murderous slime aliens, and the only thing that stops them (we learn this in the last 15 minutes of the movie) is to sprinkle Grape-Nuts in front of your door. They scream and dissolve in a stinking fog.

There would still be a few boxes left over.

When people eat Grape-Nuts for the first time, they have one of two reactions:

"That's really interesting, and I'd like some more at some future point, which can be tomorrow, or maybe next year."

"I think I'm going to need a crown."

In the interests of research, I went to the grocery store to investigate the Great Grape-Nuts Shortage. It's usually on the top shelf with All-Bran, Wheaties, Total and other cereals you associate with the era of Metrecal and Lark cigarettes. Sure enough: It was gone. Then I noticed something you can throw in the face of the Grape-Nuts fans (besides a handful of Grape-Nuts): If it's so good, where are the competitors?

Kellogg's, for example, makes Corn Flakes. Other companies also make cereals called "corn flakes," with a jaunty sense of bravado: Yeah, that's your name, but they're flakes, made of corn. Go on, sue us, see how that works.

To which Kellogg's probably thought, "Well, we lost that one, but at least we trademarked Frosted Flakes. We did trademark that, right?"

Apparently not: There are generic frosted flakes. But they can't use a tiger to say they're grrrrreat, any more than Frosted Grape-Nuts could have a lion saying they're grrrrravel! Post may be famous for Raisin Bran, but other companies make it as well. Same with Shredded Wheat. Generic terms.

Lucky Charms has its knockoffs, too. They can't suggest that an Irish sprite endorses their version, so they just go with "Fortunate Mallow Segments" or something. You know what you're getting: small, colored, indistinctly shaped fragments of frosted styrofoam mixed with compressed oat nodules at a ratio of 10-1.

Up and down the cereal aisle, you see the real thing and the cheaper imitations. But no Grape-Nuts knockoffs. This would suggest that the process of making the cereal is so mysterious that no one can reproduce it, or there is not a robust market for cereal that resembles fossilized kitty litter.

Perhaps they stopped making it to give people's gums a chance to heal? Whatever the reason, the Grape-Nuts "brand manager," Kristin DeRock — really — assures us it'll be back in March after being gone since December. Were they just looking for publicity? Well, it worked! There's no such thing as bad publicity, after all, just like there's really no such thing as bad breakfast cereal. I say that as someone who loves Special K. Or, as the generic store brand is called, Unique J.