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Where have all the marshmallow bunnies gone?

Milk chocolate Easter eggs from Vasilow’s in Hudson, NY
Ralph Gardner JR.
Milk chocolate Easter eggs from Vasilow’s in Hudson, NY

We’ve all experienced the supply chain bottlenecks caused by the pandemic. It started with paper towels and toilet paper and sooner or later seemed to touch every merchandise category, at least at my local supermarket.

It still does. Where has all the Tropicana orange juice gone? And the Jarritos pineapple and lime soda? A couple of weeks ago I went looking for golden Sun-Maid raisins and found those shelves empty. Not only were the golden ones missing. So were the more common dark raisins.

But I didn’t suffer – there’s usually some workaround, even if it’s not one’s favorite brand – until it came time to purchase my annual supply of Easter candy. My philosophy is why wait until April? It’s never going to get any fresher than it is in February; right after chocolate bunnies and their brethren replace Valentine’s hearts on store shelves.

I’ve been advised, particularly by my judgmental wife and children, that commercial, sugarcoated candy, doesn’t promote good health. So I foolishly didn’t purchase my entire season’s supply back then. I abstemiously bought one bag of Hershey’s milk chocolate eggs, one box of yellow marshmallow Peeps and -- I can kick myself now – no more than three or four Russell Stover milk chocolate marshmallow Big Bunnies.

Don’t get thrown off by the name. At two ounces the bunnies couldn’t be considered big anywhere other than in the warped imagination of corporate America’s merchandizing and marketing mavens. But I wasn’t going for big. I wanted the prudent post-dinner treat. In that regard the Russell Stover Big Bunny does not disappoint. It’s essentially – not essentially, it just is – marshmallow swaddled in surprisingly generous qualities of milk chocolate. Or to put it another more pedestrian way, it’s a chocolate bunny with a marshmallow filling.

By the way, we’re talking vanilla not chocolate marshmallow. Why do I feel the need to make the distinction? Simply as a public service. Russell Stover also manufactures a chocolate marshmallow Big Bunny. That’s chocolate marshmallow coated in milk chocolate. I’ve never gone for that configuration. In my opinion, the chocolate in the marshmallow competes with the milk chocolate coating. I’ve never understood the fuss about chocolate ice cream, either. I don’t care how chocolaty it is, it’s never going to provide the concentrated flavor of actual chocolate.

But I’m talking as if I had a choice. I suffered a near panic attack on my first February foray to the supermarket when I couldn’t locate the Big Bunnies. I feared some executive in the home office, probably a fruit eater, had decided to cut back on the variety of Easter merchandize, not realizing that Russell Stover had managed to catch lightening in a bottle with the milk chocolate vanilla marshmallow Big Bunny.

It was only after I rooted around the novelty holiday candy aisle – not to be confused with the year-round candy aisle – that I found what I was looking for. It was shoved in the back of the shelf, out of sight, and there were only a few left. If I’d known those were the lone survivors of the species I would have bought every last one.

The next time I returned all trace of them had vanished. Obviously, other shoppers know a good thing when they see it. The rabbits hadn’t been restocked and Easter was still a month or two away. What gives? Or rather gave? Was it a supply chain bottleneck or something darker? The problem may rest with the manufacturer underestimating consumers’ appetite for Big Bunnies because I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else. Believe me, I’ve tried. CVS. Duane Reade. Other supermarkets. Both in New York City and upstate.

Big Bunnies aren’t the only treats conspiring to deny me Easter candy bliss. I believe I mentioned marshmallow Peeps. In the same way that I consider chocolate marshmallow chocolate bunnies sacrilegious, I just can’t get myself to consume peeps in any color other than yellow. I’m knowledgeable enough a consumer to know there’s probably no flavor difference between a yellow peep and a purple, blue, red or green one. It’s all food coloring. But any color besides lemony yellow just doesn’t feel authentic.

Aren’t real, live chicks yellow? Isn’t that the point, the model, the avatar, the paragon? Why am I raising the issue? Because when I returned to the supermarket again, and again, not only were the Russell Stover milk chocolate Big Bunnies all gone. So were the yellow Peeps. Catastrophe piling on catastrophe. I’m sorry, but I’d rather go without, than sink my teeth into a Peep sporting some otherworldly hue.

Fortunately, I’m not totally dependent on commercial Easter candy. The supermarket stuff is merely an amuse bouche, an opening act. I buy my solid chocolate bunnies – and I’m taking dictionary definition “Big Bunny” -- at Vasilow’s, an old-fashioned, tin ceiling candy store in Hudson, NY. They’re not just for me; I’ve got children to think about. Having said that, it’s hard to pry a Russell Stover Big Bunny from my hands no matter how much I love you. I also stock up on Vasilow’s eggs. I already have enough Hershey’s eggs to get me through the Fourth of July. It’s just that Vasilow’s foil wrapped eggs are so pretty.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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