If you never hear from me again, it's because I discovered the French toast conspiracy. They already took down Aunt Jemima. I don't know if Mrs. Butterworth is involved, but when's the last time you heard from Mr. Butterworth?
Let me back up a bit.
Anyone with kids has had Eggos in the freezer. It's an efficient syrup-delivery system, comes in various flavors — Chemical-Tasting Blueberry, Insufficient Cinnamon, Chocolate Chips Because You Are Disgusting. You can eat an Eggo, of course, but — and maybe it's just me — I've never picked up one without thinking it is something that should be tossed in the air and blasted by a skeet shooter.
Microwave pancakes are a disappointment, as well; thick and leathery as a manta-ray fin, cold in the middle, oddly laminated so the syrup rolls right off. But microwaveable French toast? It's incredibly OK. If you nuke it just right, the crust doesn't always have the consistency of a paperback spine, and the bread doesn't remind you too much of marinated shoe box.
I prefer to make my own French toast, of course, but there are some mornings when the very idea of getting out the griddle seems like work. What, you want me to whittle a spatula out of a log while I'm at it? Nuke'll do.
I was at the grocery store where I get my frozen French toast when I found an empty slot in the freezer. There'd been a run on them!
The cashier said I could ask the manager when more would be in; he could check on the computer. Their sophisticated supply-chain management system could pinpoint the minute that frozen French toast would reappear. At this very moment, no doubt, an over-the-road trucker (not sure what other kind there is, come to think about it) was thundering down the highway with a thousand boxes, singing "Six Days on the Road" when he wasn't saying "Breaker breaker" to someone to find out whether Smokey was around, 10-4.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" the cashier asked.
"Sorry, never mind. I grew up in the '70s. The scars never healed. Catch you on the flip-flop, good buddy."
I went to another store we'll call Red Circle. They have a brand I'll call Parket Mantry, which is different from their upscale brand, Farcher Arms. They had no French toast. There were plenty of Mickey Mouse Eggos, if you were in the mood to snap off the ears of a copyrighted rodent, but the space where there once was French toast was as empty as the bread aisle of a Nashville supermarket after the prediction of a quarter-inch of snow.
Obviously, everyone who'd been stymied at Trader Joe's — oh, sorry, forget I said that — had driven over to, uh, Barget to scoop up the supply. Never mind; there's always the other warehouse store.
Guess what? They had none. But I was immediately distracted by a deal on frozen pizzas — I don't remember which brand — Tombstone, Grave Marker, Bongadocci's, Premataria Rising Crust, Bob's Cheap Frisbee-Crust Pepperoni 'n' FDA maximum rodent hairs, whatever. They were on sale!
The next time I was on my weekly errands, I noted that the stores again had no frozen French toast. Because this is the 21st century I got out my phone and googled "why is there no frozen French toast?" All the search results were for 2017, when Aunt Jemina had a listeria contamination so bad the parent company recalled everything and killed the brand.
Everyone who noticed the disappearance of Aunt Jemima French toast, raise your hand. Mm-hmm. Thought so. It's like there was a subliminal message in the monthly air-raid siren: You will forget about Aunt Jemima French toast.
"Yes, of course," we said in a monotone, until the all-clear sound snapped us out of our trance.
I asked the cashier what happened to the frozen French toast. It's gone. She said they'd probably restock it soon. If I had asked, "Where are the fresh yak thyroid skewers?" she'd have said the same thing. "What happened to the gromulated farlkin sauce?" Ditto.
Then I explained that it was gone everywhere. It had ceased to exist. The FDA website — I waved my phone — had no news. What's more, the disappearances appeared to have all come from the same place. Do you understand what this means? It puts the lie to the entire concept of brands. The packaging is different, to appeal to our self-identified sense of class status, but it's all the same product. If we've thought, "I like this brand better than that," it's a delusion.
"I have some in my freezer," the cashier said. "Are you sure?" I asked. "How do you know they didn't come and get it? If you eat it, and I come here next week and you're gone, whom do I call?"
At this point, another customer at self-checkout needed assistance with a watermelon, and she went to help him. I waited until she was done so I could explain that I really didn't think there was a government plot at work but was just pumping her for responses so I could write a column about it. We're all about transparency.
That was two days ago. I haven't seen her since.
Granted, I haven't been back to the store, but still. I'm having food delivered now. I placed an order over the phone for frozen French toast and suddenly there was a click and a different person was taking my order. I was told to watch for a delivery van — black, with a small satellite dish on top. If something goes wrong I'll try to get a message out in Sunday's column.