Everyone’s in, everything’s out

First it was face masks, then it was TP, then it was hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and now it’s flour and salt. I went out today on my usual half hour morning walk (my walk to work takes that same amount of time, but now I just walk the perimeter of a nearby neighbourhood). It’s been two weeks since I last went to the grocery store, since at the time, I was anticipating this nationwide lock down to last only 2-3 weeks. That was cute.

Admittedly, I came out of the store with a 10kg bag of all purpose flour. However, this is because I literally have less than 2 cups left at home, and if you know me at all, you’d know I eat cake for breakfast. Not some health nut gluten free bird seed cake, but all-out celebration cakes. Think mille crepe, butter cream cakes, chocolate ganache cakes, carrot cake, multi layer fruit and cream cakes. It starts my day right. Call me vain, but the first person besides Jesus who impresses me in the morning should be me as long as I am unwed.

However peculiar, my morning routine is not the point here. I want to discuss the panic buying that’s been ravaging the store shelves. Feel free to read Consumer Panic Buying and Quota Policy under Supply Disruptions if you’re bored out of your mind, or read the summarized version on Psychology Today. For special coverage on the case for toilet paper, leave it up to TIME, which in the opening sentence equates it to hoarding. For more on hoarding, this article paints a decent picture.

**Full disclaimer, I use the pronoun “you” for convenience. I am not attacking you, I have no way of knowing if you are one of those headless hamster hoarders out there or not, so my innocence is intact.**

I’m not a psychologist, but being in finance, I understand consumer behaviour and how markets work. I can tell you right now that panic buying is a downward spiral for your own micro economy and for your country’s macro economy. That’s right – even after taking into account any sort of emotional value this behaviour might bring you.

If you’ve done the pre-read, you’d know that panic buying is a stress response, a coping mechanism. It is not proactive, it is not rational. It’s worse than going to Costco at 11:30 AM (sample hour, amirite?) on an empty stomach. Very simply put, it’s the (il)logic that says: if I have more stuff, I’ll be more insulated from whatever may happen in the world in the near future. You’re literally building a doomsday fort.

So what’s so bad about that? (Besides the fact that it’s a completely selfish, supply-disrupting, and socially unethical thing to do. More on that later.)

It isolates you. It reinforces the belief that it’s you versus the world. That you must fend for yourself. Because a panic buyer must assume that everyone else is as well, otherwise there would be no panic. The fear feeds itself, just keep buying.

Now, how does that impact the grand scheme of things? Supply disruption. In finance we call it a liquidity crisis. Ever heard of run-on-the-bank? Nine times out of ten it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – investors get whiff of word saying that company XYZ isn’t doing so hot, and start to demand their money back. This movement causes more investors to think they need to act fast and also get their money back. Before you know it XYZ’s out of cash and declares bankrupcy. Possibly indirectly due to some unfortunate PR mishap, but hun-doh-pee due to the actions of panicked investors.

But shouldn’t suppliers be happy that their products are selling? Not exactly. You see, the economy as it is now, is multi-layered – sort of like a food chain, and economic value is accumulated at each layer. Take flour for an example – sure Robin Hood might be happy that all its flour is sold, but intermediate suppliers will have trouble sourcing the ingredients they need for their own production. It means small local businesses that actually know what to do with the bag of pastry flour you mindlessly hoarded won’t be able to use it and turn it into revenue. That bag, valued at $14, now has a value below zero because it’s taking up storage space (in a house of which the mortgage you’re still paying off) with each day of you not doing anything with it. Compare that to hundreds of dollars worth of delicious cakes, brownies, cookies, and pies the small bakery could have transformed it into.

Hashtag all you want #supportlocalbusiness, but if they’re crowded out of their supply due to hoarding consumers, it’s still GG for them.

All this is to say, before you buy, instead of asking yourself “what if I need it?”, ask “what if I don’t use it?“. We’re in this together, see the bigger picture.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 20:7

Cardamom Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Cardamom Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Now, if you already have flour at home, or have a few bananas past their prime, this is for you. But do not, please DO NOT go out and buy flour just to make this (maybe ask your local bakery if they can make it and you buy it from them instead!) Also, this frosting has the texture of Swiss meringue buttercream but has none of the work. You’re welcome.

Cardamom Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake

for a 9-inch cake, serves 12

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup grape seed oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 black bananas, pureed (measures to 2 cups, if you’re short, top it up with milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F, with the rack placed in the bottom third of the oven. Line a 3-inch tall 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, banana puree, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom into another bowl.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until generally incorporated but still with streaks of flour throughout. Dump in the walnuts and chocolate chips and fold them through with a rubber spatula just until evenly distributed. Do not over-mix.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.
  6. Cool completely before running a knife along the sides of the pan and releasing the cake.

Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pkg full fat Philadelphia brick cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 3/4 cup icing sugar
  1. In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until well creamed.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the cream cheese. Beat until completely smooth.
  3. Add the sugar and coconut extract. Beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Take 1 cup of the frosting and melt it in the microwave, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add this back to the large bowl of frosting and continue beating with the paddle attachment on medium high speed. It will turn very silky and runny at first, like ganache (if you stop here you will have a silky, but very dense frosting). Continue whipping until it resembles fully whipped cream (this gives you a really airy and light frosting that also tastes less sweet).
  6. Apply liberally and generously onto the cooled cake.

As with all cakes, I prefer to chill the finished cake completely in the fridge overnight (covered, so it doesn’t dry out), before taking a slice and letting it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature while I get ready (and allow the frosting to soften).

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!

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