After stumbling on a blog posted in the spring of 2009 by someone lamenting the scarcity in New Jersey of beloved 7-oz. milk chocolate bunny Parsnip Pete, I started thinking such a retail travesty could never happen in Louisville. Not in our city. Surely, this delicious Easter treat, a traditional favorite among hollow milk chocolate bunny fans for years, has got to still be well-stocked in area stores. It pains me to say that I was mistaken.
The neighboring Target and Wal-Mart in Middletown have no Parsnip Petes. Instead, they both sell Bunny Big Ears and Peter Rabbit, who is arguably the most widely available seasonal confection in the River City. He is as ubiquitous as Rachael Ray. Target also carries Too Tall Bunny and the always delightful Hare E. Hoppsalot, while the adjacent East End Wal-Mart counters with the smaller and inexpensive trio of Topper, Bopper, and Hopper. The Stony Brook Target has a similar inventory but theirs includes the delightful Peter Candytail, Peter Rabbit (of course), and Bunny Bigfoot. Oh and nothing celebrates Holy Week better than a chocolate covered rabbit with paws resembling those of a Sasquatch.
The Walgreens in Lyndon proudly carries Sweetie Pie, Peter B. Goode, and, you guessed it, Peter Rabbit among others. The others included a 13-ounce hollow double chocolate crisp bunny for a staggeringly inexpensive $5.00. The reason they could afford to let this one go at that price has to do with the fact that it is not milk chocolate. The cost of cocoa has gone up, and that means milk chocolate is costing more in 2010. Thus, some vendors are not ordering as many milk chocolate bunnies during this year's Lenten season on account of the economy.
The Meijer on Hursbourne Lane has the same roster: Bunny Big Ears, Too Tall Bunny, and, needless to say, Peter Rabbit. They also have the def Hippity Hop Bunny, and The Professor, a 14-ounce superstar of chocolate bunnies, who incidentally looks nothing like venerable actor Russell Johnson. In researching all of these chocolate rabbits (not exactly Bob Woodward-caliber journalism), I realized that they are all products of the R. M. Palmer Company. And so is Parsnip Pete who was still AWOL at this time in my search. So, earlier this week, I contacted R. M. Palmer and asked about whether or not the company shipped certain bunnies to certain parts of the country with more frequency than others. I asked if I could just be imagining that Parsnip Pete is any scarcer here than elsewhere.
Ironically, in an unintentional degradation of Parsnip Pete, the company e-mailed me back an answer concerning the availability of The Professor instead. According to the candy company, "The Professor is just as popular as our other chocolate bunnies all over the United States. It depends on the vendor who does the ordering as to which store purchase and how much." Their customer support staff was nice enough to inform me that Axton Candy & Tobacco in Germantown is selling The Professor. And Super Valu, Food Lion, and Nash Finch all are distributing and selling The Professor. The problem is, none of these chains are in Louisville, and I wasn't asking about the Professor in the first place.
As much as I appreciated the quick response, it struck me as odd that the company didn't answer my question about Parsnip Pete. Maybe they didn't want to discuss some clandestine plot to discontinue Parsnip Pete. Maybe they thought if they just answered a question about a similar chocolate bunny I wouldn't notice; you know sort of like the producers of The Dukes of Hazzard did in the early 80s with Coy and Vance.
Just when I thought spotting Parsnip Pete was as improbable as Gene Simmons embracing humility, there Parsnip Pete was in the Hikes Point Kroger. But in another unexpected twist in this story, he was strewn over an M&Ms display, apart from his bunny brethren. He looked lost. Discarded. Hurt. Across the aisle, it was almost as if his cohorts the stout Grand Bunny, the whimsical Heffel Flopper, and, do I have to say his name, Peter Rabbit were ostracizing him. I imagine they were saying he was too old school for today's kids, and they were the hip and wanted new wave of bunnies.
Encouraged by the sight of just one Parsnip Pete, I decided to try another chain. So I dragged my young sons with me to the J-Town CVS, which, incidentally, is the only retailer I visited that carry a non-Palmer character bunny brand. They also stock a brand called Merlin's, Nevertheless, I asked a friendly young clerk named Paige if CVS sold many large chocolate bunnies. "We sell a lot of these guys because they're cheap," she said pointing at the modestly priced triumvirate of Squiggles, Wiggles, and Giggles. "We don't sell the big ones, " she added. Don't feel bad CVS, the candy store in Mall St. Matthews, Inside Scoop, isn't selling any chocolate bunnies.
But alas. Just as I was about to declare Louisville a city as equally deprived of Parsnip Pete as the Garden State was a year ago, he turned up at a Kroger in PRP. This time, he stood proudly on a shelf next to his family, his delicious, 23-grams of sugar per serving chin held high. It was about time.
Admittedly so, this was not a scientific study. The Gallup people will not be contacting me asking for sampling tips. So, other than acknowledging the rock star status of Peter Rabbit and grudgingly coming to the conclusion that if you want Parsnip Pete in Louisville you better go to an area Kroger and hope for the best, what did I learn from this scavenger hunt across Jefferson County? I have way too much free time.
You may also enjoy: Photo Gallery: 18th Annual Frankfort Avenue Easter Parade
Photo courtesy of Shelby Miller