A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 32

Brits bake off: focaccia anyone?

Thursday, April 9

In Britain flour producers cannot keep up with demand. Grocery sales of flour were up 92% in the four weeks ending March 21, compared with the same period last year. That probably means the long-running TV hit The Great British Bake Off has prompted stuck-at-home and otherwise-idle viewers to think, hey, I can do it too. Let’s make scones with clotted cream!

Meanwhile, if The New York Times is to be believed, Americans are choosing to revert to the processed junk food of their childhoods—SpaghettiOs, Cheetos, and Hamburger Helper.

Emily, who has been managing our food purchasing from Peapod, has an explanation for the American trend. “It’s because that’s what they can get, it’s what the stores have,” she says. “You can get Prego prepared pasta sauce, but the cans of whole tomatoes are always sold out, so you can’t make your own sauce.”

For a while there has been a major division in the U.S. population between those who like cooking ever-more-challenging dishes and those who cannot—or will not—boil an egg. Now, this schism has ended: Both the non-cooks and the pro-cooking crowd are huddled together at home, sharing whatever goods they’ve been able to stockpile. The so-called “fast, casual” takeout joints that line our street near the Union Square subway station–Cava, Pokespot, Dos Toros Taqueria, and more–must depend on orders coming in via phone. Or, for all I know, such places may have all closed down. And how are nearby grocery sellers doing? Does Whole Foods carry SpaghettiOs? We’re eating plenty of processed food ourselves—more than usual.

Tonight’s dinner will be: black beans and rice. But soon enough we’ll be having more Progresso soup or a frozen Amy’s Light & Lean Macaroni & Cheese. It’s what Peapod had on offer.

Entertainment: One episode of The Crown (concluding season three) and two episodes of the mysterious Berlin Babylon.

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