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I love that Bernie Sanders meme. 

The one where he once again calls on the three ghosts of Christmas to haunt various billionaires and take their money. As far as memes go, it hits all the right buttons, but technically it’s not quite apt. I’d argue that Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t a great stand-in for the soulless space-going billionaires. Scrooge isn’t a villain; instead, he’s an anti-hero, a deeply flawed and conflicted man with cloudy morals and a bad attitude. Nonetheless, he awakens on Christmas morning, determined to redistribute his wealth. 

In other words, Scrooge becomes a socialist. 

On the other hand, CEOs like Kellogg’s Steve Cahillane are villainous skinflints. 

Here’s Cahillane’s cold, calculating take on the first wave of the pandemic—  “the pandemic presented us with a sampling event like no other and, we saw increases in household penetration that outpaced most of our categories.” 

Meanwhile, Cahillane rakes in a salary of nearly 12 million a year—approximately 280 times the employee average—while Kellogg’s workers have been routinely clocking an eighty-hour workweek since the start of the pandemic. In the immortal words of the unnamed narrator in a Christmas Carol, “he had a tight-fisted hand to the grindstone and was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”

It’s little wonder that workers at four cereal plants in the United States have been on strike since October 5th.

What Exactly Do Kellogg’s Workers’ Want?

Well, they don’t want to work in Dickensian conditions, which seems like a small ask. 

Employees at these factories have been repeatedly exposed to factory break-outs of COVID-19. They’ve been asked to work seven days a week. Management at these plants have proposed an end to cost-of-living raises and want to expand a two-tier pay and benefits system. This two-tier system is brutal. Here’s how it works: an experienced factory employee could make about $30 dollars an hour. Still, a second-tier transitional (i.e., exploited) worker (who’s exposed to all the same dangers) would earn approximately $19.50 an hour and receive no pension and no healthcare coverage for years. Factory workers want a living wage, safer working conditions, enhanced healthcare benefits, and they want to move away from the two-tiered system.

How Has Kellogg’s Handled these Negotiations and Approached the Bargaining Table?

With very little grace.

Not surprisingly, Kellogg’s has not approached the bargaining table with the union in good faith. Shortly after the start of the strike, workers had their health benefits cut off, replacement workers (scabs) have been bussed into the plant, and Kellogg’s announced this week that it would hire new permanent workers for its cereal plants to replace the union employees on strike.

What Can Consumers Do?

To start, don’t complain too much about not finding Rice Krispies—they’re in short supply because people are on the picket line fighting for safe working conditions. Instead of seeking out Rice Krispies for your peanut butter balls, stand with the striking workers and avoid all Kellogg’s products and affiliated companies, which include: Pringles, Cheez-its, Eggos, and Kashi. 

But what about my peanut butter balls? Don’t I NEED Rice Krispies for those?

I got you. Below, I’ve described how to puff jasmine rice. I’ve also included a delicious peanut butter ball recipe that doesn’t contain puffed rice. 

How Do I Puff Rice?

Ah. It’s so easy.

First, we need to add some moisture to our rice. That wetness is what causes the rice to puff up! So, soak your rice for ten minutes, rinse it several times, and drain when the water runs clear!

Now, you’re going to ignore everything you know about cooking rice. Fill a saucepan with one ¾ cup of water, bring to a boil, and pour in 1 cup of rice. Lower the temperature. We want it on a medium-low for 30 minutes. We’re overcooking our rice here. I like to sweeten it at this stage, so toss in some white or brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat once our rice has absorbed all the water and is adequately overcooked.

Next, we need to dry our rice. Spread it onto a sheet of parchment and let it dry for the whole day, or you can bake it in the oven for 5 hours at 50 degrees. 

Finally, it’s time to cook our dried rice. Spread your grains out on a baking sheet with oil and cook for 2 hours at 250 degrees celsius. This makes nice puffy rice that you jam into your peanut butter balls. You can also fry these baked rice puffs for an extra crunchy bite!

A Peanut Butter Balls SANS Rice Krispies

*Makes 36 peanut butter balls

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup of salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ half bags of chocolate chips (use the good stuff!)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tsp good sea salt (to garnish)

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the softened peanut butter, salted butter, vanilla, salt, and half of the powdered sugar. You can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon and gloved hands.

Blend on low speed until the mixture begins to come together. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the remaining powdered sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be thick but not dry. I use a small ice cream scoop to make nice tight balls, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Now, refrigerate for at least two hours, or preferably overnight. Time for the fun part. Using a bain-marie, melt your chocolate chips and coconut oil. Once everything is melty and delicious, begin dipping each ball and return to your parchment-lined baking sheet. I like to jazz these up with some flaky sea salt or a drizzle of salted caramel, but you can keep it classic too. Once everything is dipped, place it in the fridge or freezer. These should keep for two weeks.

Enjoy!

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Andie Bulman is a chef, librarian, gardening enthusiast, comedian, podcaster, and writer who cares about food, equal and fair access to information, sustainability, jokes, and the Oxford comma.