Disappearing ballots – and chocolate – a real mystery | TheUnion.com

Disappearing ballots – and chocolate – a real mystery

I have to correct something I wrote here recently. It was a story about how convenient absentee ballots are. After this last election, make that IN-convenient, in my case anyway.

My wife and I applied by mail, as we always do, but the ballots never arrived. The Elections Office claimed it mailed them. I’d chalk it up to somebody tossing them into the wrong slot somewhere, which is bound to happen once in a while, except my wife has hers delivered to a post office box in town and mine comes to our mailbox here at Clear Creek Ranch. Both ballots mysteriously disappeared into the vast bureaucracy (be it governmental or postal, who knows!). Postal sorting machines as far away as Oakland have been implicated.

After listening to all the explanations and excuses, I felt like the school teacher who has heard the “my grandmother died” and “the dog ate my homework” excuses so often they blur together into the much-harder-to-believe “my grandmother ate my homework.”

And speaking of Grandma’s eating habits, she would be excited to learn that ounce-for-ounce, maple syrup contains twice as much calcium as milk. As you know, a maple tree won’t kick over the pail anywhere near as often as a cow will. Who wouldn’t rather down three sappy glasses of Canada’s finest rather than worry about bovine growth hormones, lactose intolerance and mad cow disease?

Near the end of Grandma’s life (she lived to be 99-plus), her eating regimen narrowed down to the essentials: Snickers bars and strong tea sweetened with gobs of maple syrup (or grape jelly in a pinch).

She would be as shocked as Mr. Snickers is to learn of the impending chocolate shortage. Worldwide cocoa production has been dropping since 1996. On average, one-third of each year’s crop is lost to a variety of insects and fungi, none of whom have proven governmental ties.

As much of the world’s cocoa supply is now grown in Africa, a continent with which I am not familiar, I went online to learn more. Unfortunately, the only information I could find had to do with the suspected prevalence of child slave labor on west African cocoa plantations.

Several large U.S. and European chocolate manufacturers admit there may be a problem, but because of the way cocoa is bought and sold, they don’t know if they buy cocoa from such plantations. One prominent American chocolate user, the ever-politically correct Ben & Jerry’s, unequivocally denies any possibility of any connection with such horrendous activities.

Since no one else can be sure, how can they? I am beginning to suspect that a dog eats Ben & Jerry’s homework on a regular basis, and I’m not talking about test batches of new ice cream flavors.

To regain some credibility with me, perhaps Ben & Jerry could develop a french-fried potato-flavored ice cream to help out American potato growers. Apparently, everybody doesn’t “want fries with that” and consumption levels are dropping. Couch potatoes are no longer eating their own.

And I’m sure American french fry farmers are glad to hear that they are now in direct competition with the U.S. government. The USDA just patented a “french fry” made from rice flour. “Rice fries” are considered to be more healthful than the traditional potato varieties by food fad “authorities.”

But I’ve heard dubious governmental health claims before. Which is why, for calcium, I’m sticking to three 8-ounce glasses of maple syrup a day. It sure is sticking to me. The empty glass, that is.

And yes, I’ll have fries with that!

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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