Well, almost. At least I've ORDERED my balls already this year...the picture is actually from last year's shipment of balls.
Oh, I'm sorry...I'm talking about CHEESE BALLS!!! Cheese balls by the barrel(s) from UTZ on the East Coast. Last year was the FIRST year Planter's stopped making their trashy, puffed crap product sold at all area Kmart/Walmart/Target stores AND they nearly ruined my holiday!
For the past 6+ years, I have been carrying on my Grandma Goldie's tradition of making TV snack mix during the holiday season. I was actually making the "product" year's before that, but over the past 6+, it's become more than a tradition...I started taking the snack mix in to work.
The first year at my current job, I made just a few batches of the mix, and distributed tiny, little bags to each of my coworkers...they WERE tiny, but they also numbered about 40 total. My coworkers loved it.
The second year at my current job, my coworkers began to ask me if I was MAKING the "product" again for them? I couldn't disappoint the masses, so I once again cooked up the "product" and doled it out amongst the starving and anorexic people I call friends and colleagues. I noticed a change in their receipt of the baggies of "product", however. They began to bicker over "who got more" and even sunk so low as to STEAL anyone's bag who wasn't expected in to work over the holidays, sighting a "stale factor" as rationale. They were addicted.
Over the course of the next few years, the batches of "product" became bigger and bigger as I tried desperately to quell the addictive habits of my friends. They began exchanging certain food items in the "product" between each other...some preferring the nuts or cereal, others salivating over the prized cheese balls.
Last year was a near disaster. I started my ingredient shopping way too late in the season and couldn't find a can of Planter's Cheese balls West of the Mississippi. I consulted with my only living blood relatives in Missouri and Kansas, the "Mecca Of Marts", who were also experiencing the cheese ball drought...no one knew what to do and the frightening and hungry looks of my coworkers were growing ever so concerning...they were seeing orange and the taste of past snack mix lingered in their minds like that of a coyote's first kill. It called for desperate measures.
I contacted the COMPANY who makes and distributes (or at least USED to make and distribute) Planter's Cheese Balls...they wrote me a kind email back, apologizing, but clearly stating they no longer produced the blue-tin cans of crap...they offered no explanation and no serious alternative. Planter's left me high and dry and about to be eaten alive by the group of snack-mix-hungry aliens I used to call friends.
I resorted to the Internet black market...I had no other options. I Googled and I searched, finally locating a company called "Utz" on the East Coast who produced a similar product. I Amazon dot commed it...they carried it...they'd send me two BARRELS of puffy cheese crap in the dark of the night via UPS for a hefty price...the "handling" charges cost more than the barrels and they wouldn't ship me any LESS than two! But, $30.00 later, I had what I needed to complete the coveted snack mix.
This year, I'm starting early...I've ordered the balls, I've taken a second job to pay the enormous cost of the "product" (not really, but I like how that sounds), and I'm preparing myself mentally for what I like to call, "Snack Mix Day". Some eight to ten hours later on Snack Mix Day, I will have produced EIGHT roaster pans FULL of Grandma Goldie's TV snack mix...50 small bags will be carefully filled, weighed (ah, I don't really weigh them either, but what the heck...while I'm on the drug-cooking theme, why not?!?), and distributed like junk food heroin to ward off a holiday drive by shooting of my home by my coworkers.
Let's face it...I'm the Snack Mix Cartel...the junk food distributor...the dealer...and Grandma Goldie would be so proud...SHE had balls, too!