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The case of the missing Cool Whip

Like any good farm wife worth her salt, my mother was always prepared for any contingency.

Her car trunk held a pair of five-buckle over boots for those times when the cattle decided to roam after church. Her day could be changed with the phrase, "Honey, can you go to town for me?" All of our family events even had "Acts of Larry" dates set in advance.

Mom's menu planning was even built around pulling meals together in a hurry. She had an arsenal of quick, go-to recipes that were kid-tested and Dad-approved. Among the various casseroles and quick side dishes, there were also at least 50 different salads and desserts that called for Cool Whip.

Now, there are certain staple ingredients all good farm wives stock in their pantries and freezers--beef, chicken, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and Cool Whip. And, like any good farm wife, Mom had two chest freezers and a pantry stocked with enough staples to last our family of five through the next apocalypse.

Those deep freezes were huge. They were so monstrous that I used to have my siblings hold me by my legs so I could lean in and get a bag of peas for Mom from the bottom without falling in all the way. Actually, as an adult I probably still should have had someone on standby just in case I got lost looking for a package of hamburger.

One always held a side of beef--most likely a steer or lame bull from our herd and most likely with a name. The other deep freeze held everything else, like frozen vegetables, pizzas, sliced bread, ice packs and Mom's stash of Cool Whip.

Before every trip to town for groceries, Mom would dutifully make a list of the items she needed for her pantry and the deep freezes--from canned vegetables and pasta, to milk and eggs. There were also those items that perpetually had a spot on her list because we always seemed to run low on them.

Tubs of Cool Whip were such items.

"How can one family go through that many tubs of Cool Whip?" she'd mutter as she added it to the list. "I know I bought four tubs not two weeks ago. Where did they go?" We weren't adding to the "fine china" with empty plastic tubs. We hadn't eaten that many salads and desserts to account for the missing Cool Whip. Just where were those tubs?

It was a mystery to us, as well. Afterall, the deep freezes were Mom's domain. The only time we had anything to do with them was to go out on her request and bring in something or another for dinner. And no one was going to volunteer to defrost her two giant freezers just to find some missing Cool Whip tubs.

And so, the cycle continued. Mom would buy tubs of Cool Whip, take them home, put them in the freezer, lose them, and have to buy more Cool Whip. It wasn't until the day we were cleaning out Mom's freezers in preparation for the big move to Montana that we finally found out the answer to that little life question: "Where do all the Cool Whip tubs go?"

Apparently, they all go to the bottom of Mom's deep freeze, where they multiply in the dark like bunnies. My sister and I stopped counting at 35 tubs and Mom hasn't put Cool Whip on her shopping list since.

Never fear, folks, no Cool Whip tubs were abandoned. Those that weren't parceled out to neighbors or donated to a local food bank found homes with us kids. I came home myself with a dozen tubs of Cool Whip for my own freezer.

Now if I could only find them.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807, or by e-mail at jlatzke@hpj.com.

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