Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chinese Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

It is the holiday season here in the US. Thanksgiving will be celebrated on November 28th and then in the blink of an eye it will be Christmas and New Year’s Eve! It is a crazy busy time of the year for most people and retail businesses. Yet there is some seasonality in the consulting business. My consulting travel has slowed allowing me time to focus on other things. Other than two local presentations (The Lean Construction Institute and American Society for Quality) in November and December my calendar is clear. This has allowed me time to sit in front of my laptop and give focus to writing my next book. Progress is steady and rewarding. To keep the creative process going I decided to repost a blog I wrote two years ago rather than write something new. This blog post is seasonal and is the second most popular I have written based on the Blogger statistics. I hope you enjoy reading it for the first time or second time if you are a longtime supporter. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you live in the US and as always – stay safe.

I like most of you understand our standard of living has been artificially propped up with cheap goods from China. I accept the fact that much of what I buy in U.S. retail stores is made in China – I was in a Wal-Mart just yesterday. But I will not eat pumpkin pie made with pumpkin from China as I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family.

Recently my wife purchased a can of pumpkin from our local independent grocer (IGA). I have for 30 years supported this store. About eight years ago a large local grocery chain built a new store about 1/2 mile from my home. I rarely visit that store because of my unwavering loyalty to my local independent grocer. That may change. Since the canned pumpkin had a brand label, Polar, that I was not familiar with, I read the back of the label. I was more than surprised to find out it was from China. I thought, OMG, we could have made our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie with pumpkin from China! How would the average Chinese person feel if they discovered that the traditional Spring Festival sweets served at their family celebration were made in Mexico? Some things are just wrong.
I have known for about two years that the fresh garlic from the same IGA is from China. I rarely buy it for it is never very fresh and lacks the flavor fresh garlic should have. I cannot understand why fresh garlic is sourced from the other side of the world! What happened to Gilroy, CA the garlic capital of the world? The self proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world is Morton, IL where Libby’s grows and produces canned pumpkin. It is only 138 miles from my local IGA to Morton, IL! China is over 10,000 miles away! Are the margins at the IGA stores so tight that they have to resort to sourcing fresh and canned food products, which are available regionally, from the other side of the world to save a few pennies? The management team at the Independent Grocers Association should understand that the customers who support the IGA stores are the farmers and produces of food products that populate small town America where most of the IGA stores are located. Makes you wonder if the IGA in Morton, IL carries canned pumpkin from China. If so the employees from the Libby’s plant might want to talk with the store manager.

I was again in my local IGA a few days ago and as I walking down an aisle I noticed some fruit preserves that were priced at half the price of every other brand. The brand was the same as the pumpkin - Polar brand. Food safety in the U.S. has had some problems as witnessed by numerous food recalls and the illnesses and even deaths from tainted fresh produce like spinach and cantaloupe. But, at least I know we have an agency that monitors and inspects our food products. I personally have no idea how that is accomplished in China. And please do not think I am some prejudiced flag waver. I love to cook and visit ethnic grocery stores including a large Asian grocery store where I often purchase products produced in China. Ethnic groceries are a real joy for they provide me with new and unique ingredients that challenge me to prepare new dishes I have never tried before. They offer specialty products I cannot source from a U.S. supplier. If my local IGA, which I have supported for 30 years, cannot support the farmers and producers of food from the U.S and continues to stock their shelves with both the Polar brand and their own private labeled products produced in China I will start spending my food money elsewhere. Garlic and canned pumpkin are not specialty products.

Now back to the can of pumpkin. After reading the pumpkin label I returned the can of pumpkin and asked for a refund. When asked what the problem was I simply stated that the pumpkin was from China. The clerk did not look up or react in any way to my comment. She simply completed the transaction and refunded my money. If you and I do not react someday we may all be eating Thanksgiving pumpkin pie made with pumpkin from China. That just doesn't seem right.