January 23, 2016

"Milk, Bread, and Eggs: The Trinity of Winter-Storm Panic-Shopping."

"Why do people reliably stock up on the same things before they get snowed in?," asks Joe Pinsker in The Atlantic.

He doesn't give the answer I saw in the comments section somewhere in the NYT: Everybody suddenly gets a craving for French toast. 

He says:
Storms can of course wreak awful damage, but for most people they are a harmless annoyance and perhaps even an excuse to stay inside—a culture-wide justification for renouncing FOMO for a day. To stock up on cozy foods like milk and eggs is to clearly demarcate the storm as a time to put on sweatpants and not go anywhere. Buying a bunch of canned foods—a more practical choice—is decidedly less cozy, and may even carry unwanted survivalist overtones.
FOMO — fear of missing out — becomes JOMO — joy of missing out.

Pinsker observes that bread is a very sensible choice. It doesn't need refrigeration, and there's concern about losing electricity. It's the milk and the eggs that are impractical and therefore deeply psychic. To say that is to make the motivation obvious. Pinsker doesn't say it, so I will: You're all running to Mother.

By the way, all the shelter-in-place news about a snowstorm looks pretty silly from my vantage point in Wisconsin. Yeah, I can see why the authorities don't want people out in cars slipping and skidding and getting stuck, and I'm sure the local drivers lack experience driving properly in snow, but the drama is absurd. I watched a little video at the NYT of a reporter wearing a GoPro-type camera and riding a bicycle through Washington DC to show us how terrible things were, and the street didn't even have a light coating of snow. It was wet and black. The man was using the word "blizzard" and commenting about the lack of visibility of the Capitol building in the distance, but there was no problem seeing his immediate surroundings. It was nothing like "whiteout" conditions. (And I've had the experience of driving in whiteout conditions on a mountain road where it was also dangerous to pull over. It was terrifying.)

60 comments:

wendybar said...

The storm shifted north more. I live at the Jersey shore, and we are getting some white out conditions. We have 4 foot drifts in our yard, and we still have the rest of the day to go!

EDH said...

Pinsker observes that bread is a very sensible choice. It doesn't need refrigeration, and there's concern about losing electricity. It's the milk and the eggs that are impractical and therefore deeply psychic.

It is a SNOW storm isn't it?

David Begley said...

No big deal in the Midwest.

Those East Coast media people need to get over themselves. They bore us.

Original Mike said...

A friend of mine, a North Carolina native who lived in Wisconsin for several years, tells me that when snow "storms" hit N.C. the grocery stores are emptied of bread and toilet paper. They don't seem to realize they'll be able to get to the store again in a couple of days.

Original Mike said...

"It is a SNOW storm isn't it?"

Yep. If your refrigerator stops working people, put the milk in the garage (or a snow bank).

Titus said...

As a former cheesehead and now an elite, eastern big city coastie, I do not agree.

Wisconsin has like no peeps and as a result the snow is easy to clear.

Fab coastie cites are very crowded, with tiny little fab streets with expensive 500 square feet apartments. Cars are parked bumper to bumper on these fab streets and plowing is impossible.

Plus, we are more important, and the media is here, as a result we get all the attention.

We do have the app plow me though, which is like uber to get your car out of the snow!

Sorry Alice in Dairyland.

tits.

rhhardin said...

In the great ice storm of around 2004, when power was out for a couple of weeks, I just put the freezer contents on the back porch. It was sub-zero most of the time.

The house itself took care of refrigerating the milk.

The house was kept above freezing by the basement floor and an open basement door.

Titus said...

Flyover states really bore east coasties!

Those that can flee!

virgil xenophon said...

You're forgetting el primo numero uno, AA, the laying in of "mass quantities" of--get ready for it-- BOOZE!

Original Mike said...

Just don't let the beer freeze.

Levi Starks said...

Bread?
That's for lazy folks.
I buy unbleached bread flour, and enjoy the pleasure making my own bread while watching it snow out the window in the woods behind my house.

robinintn said...

If there were a "like" for these comments I would like every one of Titus'.

robinintn said...

When I went to BC Law in the 90s, a friend spent several weeks believing his car was under a mountain of plowed snow. Turns out it was stolen.

Michael K said...

The east coasters are almost as afraid of snow as they are of Trump !

pm317 said...

Yeah, I can see why the authorities don't want people out in cars slipping and skidding and getting stuck, and I'm sure the local drivers lack experience driving properly in snow, but the drama is absurd.

I along with a horde of commuters had our winter emergency on Wednesday evening here around DC. There was no drama on Wed evening and that was a problem. Roads were not pre-treated and it was an unholy mess. Snow turning to ice and evening rush hour getting trapped on Rock Creek and other main roads around DC. Slipping, sliding and crashes everywhere. It took me 4 hours to get home (normally it takes 1 hr) and I didn't think I would make it. It was a miracle I didn't hit anybody or get hit. It was scary and I have never driven in snow/ice before. But my car handled beautifully.

Steven Davis said...

Checking in from Severna Park MD with a random pre-coffee thoughts.

Less than an inch of snow two nights ago crippled traffic in DC for 5 hours, many abandoned their vehicles and walked home, so stay off the roads is good advice for the very large population of fools here.

Didn't buy milk, but bread and eggs were on the list. Sammiches will be a staple if we lose power. We have a few unexpected guests hunkering down with us as well so it's good to have extra of anything. I stocked up on beer and wine as well.

Speaking of power, that's my largest worry. I bought a AM/FM/SW radio with batteries yesterday in the event that it becomes the only entertainment I have for several days, and mainly so I can listen to the MD vs MIST BB game tonight.

And then there is the dog problems... We have 3 plus 1 guest dog staying, and managing them inside and getting them out for necessary business has been the biggest challenge to this point.


Fritz said...

Report from the Heart of El Ninsnowmaggedocoplypse.

The good news is that the power is still on, the house is warm, the dog has been out to romp in the snow already this morning, and the coffee is done perking. There's something like a foot of snow on the ground, but it's blowing around so hard that there's not much of a difference between the ground and the sky, and the snow that's on the ground isn't very evenly distributed.

The bad news is that this isn't supposed to quit until around midnight tonight.

robinintn said...

The dog problems! My little Sheltie is not pleased by 6 inches with higher drifts. She keeps checking with me to see why there's no grass for her business. Then she has to groom the ice blocks from her feet when we get back.

Steven Davis said...

For Micheal K:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/01/21/poll-name-this-winter-storm/

"We're gonna have a blizzard! It's gonna be HUUUUGE! LET'S MAKE WINTER GREAT AGAIN!

Jim said...

DC usually doesn't get much snow, and what it does get is more often wet and doesn't last long. As a child, I can remember only one year that there was decent sledding and snow fort building.
So yeah, people get upset during major storms like this one.
Visiting family in Nebraska was a bit different. No one even mentioned the snow, unless the drifts were up to the eaves. Or when the cows started to disappear. This was the fifties, so people didn't get that excited about weather.

Ambrose said...

I purchased milk and bread last night (along with beer and coffee - the real essentials if you housebound). This morning I just realized we need eggs. - so next time I'll know.

Tank said...

Looks like we're going to get a full year of snow today in NJ.

The TV coverage is insane, as usual.

No big deal as long as the power stays on.

AllenS said...

If they run out of food at the White House, those dogs are in deep trouble.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm a transplanted NORCAL person in DC. The folks in the Mid Atlantic and particularly Maryland, don't do snow well. We have these things called Snow Emergency Routes, which in the DC burbs means, "If you see a snowflake, it's an emergency. Park your car in the middle of the road and walk home."

I used to live mid-way between Sacramento and Tahoe. Places where the highways are on the edges of cliffs and where they put 12 foot orange painted re-bar up to mark the edges of the road for plows. Unlike maryland, the CHP puts out a line of flares at maybe the 3,000 foot level and drivers get three choices. Put on Chains, turn around, or park for the winter. The Unofficial CHP motto is "No more Donner Parties" They've seen too may a$$holes in SUVs who think that spending $70K on a AWD means the laws of physics don't apply.

PS: Average annual snow fall at Squaw Valley is 450 inches (e.g. 37.5 feet)

pm317 said...

@Steven Davis

Yeah, people around here don't know how to drive esp. in the snow/ice. I didn't know either but looking back I managed pretty well. Wednesday evening was a mess and I don't know why or how all the people, weather, radio, (DC) authorities missed it. I was watching the weather.com all day and it said 0 precip and later I saw they had changed it to 50% after I got home after 4 hours of harrowing commute. To show they don't know how to drive, .. I was trying to get on Military from Broad Branch and there was a car that was stopped because it could not navigate the little ittybitty incline.. there were two other cars behind it and the first car tried to maneuver around it but also could not get up the incline. The car behind it followed it so closely that when the first car started to roll backwards the second car got hit. So road to Military was blocked. Lucky for me I was at an intersection and the left turn looked flat and fine but I had no idea where that was going and I got lost for a while until I saw Western Ave on the map. What a relief. It was crazy and scary. BTW, MD side seemed like they had pre-treated the roads and when I got off the car in my garage, my legs were shaking and they didn't stop for the next half hour.

lgv said...

Eggs last a long time without refrigeration. Milk is a bad purchase, unless it's powdered. Milk spoils even if you have a working refrigerator. MREs are the best way to go.

Original Mike said...

I bought a house one mile from work. Never had a snow day in 20 years.

Fritz said...

The dog problems! My little Sheltie is not pleased by 6 inches with higher drifts. She keeps checking with me to see why there's no grass for her business. Then she has to groom the ice blocks from her feet when we get back.

Ours is a Siberian Husky. She thinks it's just the right temperature and snow depth, and wonders why we don't want to spend more time out there.

Tank said...

Mail - yes.

Paper - no. Yes, I get a paper paper. But not today.

gspencer said...

People should stock up on everything. And I mean everything.

Just remember, after every storm there has never, ever been another delivery of bread. Never.

Fernandinande said...

"Biking Through a Snowstorm in Washington"

Not much of a storm if you can bike through it. At 10K feet in Colo we'd regularly get enough snow to completely cover a bike.

Semi-fake Drudge headline: "IT KEEPS COMING DOWN" below a picture of maybe 3" of snow.

"and may even carry unwanted survivalist overtones"
...said the goofy doofus.

Laslo Spatula said...

Big storms make it wonderful to be inside, dry and warm.

A hint for preparation: Eggs, milk, bread: Sure.

But don't forget the cucumbers, the orange ball gag and the ten-inch yellow polyurethane dildo.

Times such as these can lead you to broaden your horizons.

Especially if you have kidnapped a girl and have her trapped in the basement.

Also: lube.


I am Laslo.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

If the weather is cold enough for a blizzard, milk and eggs can be placed in a cooler and put outside if your power goes out. Cooking eggs could be problematic, if you don't have a grill. With a grill you can boil water and cook the eggs that way.

But I agree with the professor, its comfort food time.

ganderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignorance is Bliss said...

Titus said...

We do have the app plow me though, which is like...

I was a little worried where you were going with this one...

wholelottasplainin' said...

Here in Boston, WRKO's own Howie Carr regularly mocks people making a mad dash to the grocery stores to "stock up" on bread, milk and other staples, using a fake TV announcer ("Biff Buffington") shouting over a fake blizzard that it's time to... panic!!!!.

OK, maybe batteries, candles,toilet paper and booze make sense, but c'mon. Most people have enough food on their kitchen shelves and in their pantries--let alone their fridges---to last more than a week on their own. Even if the electricity goes out, gas furnaces and stoves will get you through the worst. (Sorry if you have oil)

Our ancestors would call us all a bunchapussies--and they would be right!

jeff said...

NY Mayor De Blasio is on the tube telling parents not to go out in the snow with their children and play, IT'S DANGEROUS. What a freekin wimp. Really, how did we ever survive 40 years ago before global warming.

AllenS said...

Why not just order pizza if you run out of food?

traditionalguy said...

Don't forget lots of Ice Cream.

JAORE said...

Pantry is full. I have a couple of gas cylinders for the grill if I lose power long enough. Lots of batteries and candles.

Of course I live in Alabama, but still....

JAORE said...

Dachshunds in the snow,
Freeze they little heinies.
But why is that so?
Cause they legs so tiny.

Sam P said...

Boiled eggs keep for a time at room temperature, and you can always use outside as a natural cooler/freezer. I seem to recall if you boil the egg then dip them in wax, they can keep a long time at room temperature.

It looks like here (30 miles west of Washington DC), we've gotten over two feet of snow, the wind has also caused drifts of nearly four feet.

wildswan said...

News Flash
So the March for Life happened and there was a pretty good turn out which is amazing because of the apocalypse now predictions going on. One of my relatives and her band of college friends was made to leave the March by college adults terrorized by the predictions. The other stayed and had no great difficulties. But the problem is an intermittent snowfall.

On Wednesday night there was half an inch which turned immediately to ice and people had a horrible time. Thousands were on the road for four hours. Then nothing much till 4 o'clock Friday when it began snowing. But everyone left the city and their schools by noon Friday so again no big trouble. Now there is three feet out by the mountains and about 18 inches between Annapolis and Baltimore; that is a lot for a city with teeny weeny snow plows and incompetent drivers. And it's still snowing and if it keeps up for another twelve hours as predicted then there will be a lot of snow. But the temperature is 25 and everyone expects an immediate melt so the danger thay are watching for is massive sudden flooding. Everyone is at home shoveling, (those with plows proudly plowing the neighborhood), those without eating, drinking and watching Netflix.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Do your panic buying early. You never know what you'll get stuck with.

CatherineM said...

First of all, the East Coast is quite large. Big diff between DC panic and say Boston, no? Stop generalizing.

During bad weather can always count on posts like this calling people wimps and weak.

Titus is right. It's the population. I am lucky and can park behind my house. If your car is street bound like most, it's already under several feet of snow due to drifts and plows from street and sidewalk. Total bitch to dig out. In 1996 blizzard with 26 inches, my Escort was under 5 feet of snow. 2 hrs of shoveling I only got one door cleared so I gave up. No where to put snow either. Thankfully due to mass transit I got around fine.

It's really just an inconvenience, a bitch to dig and messy.

CatherineM said...

DiBlasio is already declaring that Monday won't be normal. Such a loser. Rudy never did that.

tim in vermont said...

The only real problem is when you get enough powder at one go so that the snowmobile sinks and gets stuck. That's only happened once to me. But I keep canned food around on account of it doesn't bother me if somebody thinks I am a survivalist on account of I prefer to survive.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If you already have canned goods, there is no need to stock up. Of course you go for perishables, what is so hard to understand?

Bob R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fabi said...

I never get enough of Titus claiming to be an elite. It's so charming!

Saint Croix said...

A friend of mine, a North Carolina native who lived in Wisconsin for several years, tells me that when snow "storms" hit N.C. the grocery stores are emptied of bread and toilet paper. They don't seem to realize they'll be able to get to the store again in a couple of days.

Dude, I've lived in the South all my life. Except for six months in Australia. And I can assure you that this is an understatement. I've been in a grocery store on day one of a snow storm (i.e. three inches) and the shelves are so empty it's like I'm in the former Soviet Union. And it's not actually a panic. I don't panic (much). But if you've lived in the South, it doesn't actually matter. That's what happens. People run to the grocery store. You look in your cupboard and it's like, "oh shit, I have food for two days." And you can calmly drive to the grocery store, or calmly stay home. But everybody else is going to the grocery store. And Freud is going, "do you need that much toilet paper?" And I'm like, "dude, it was the last one, shut up."

I went to the drug store and found cereal. You know they have cereal in drug stores now? Cereal and peanut-butter and coca-cola. I missed out on the milk.

Also, people in the South cannot drive on ice. I know we're a beautiful people and Yankees will keep flocking down here because we're so sweet and polite. But we cannot drive on ice.

Saint Croix said...

My big concern was my dog, Vanna, who does not like the cold. She's from the South, too. And damn if I was going to buy a sweater for her.

Found a Panthers dog jersey. $25! Awesome.

Go Cam, you rock.

Scott said...

The news media love their "weather-porn". Have you noticed they now use the wind chill in their graphics rather than the actual air temperature? Anything to feed the hype....

Original Mike said...

"Also, people in the South cannot drive on ice. I know we're a beautiful people and Yankees will keep flocking down here because we're so sweet and polite. But we cannot drive on ice."

That's what my friend said. However, he returned to N.C. after having learned in Wisconsin how to drive on snow and ice so maybe it will rub off. (Actually, he tells me he tries to stay off the roads during storms because of all the dangerous drivers.)

RJ said...

James Lileks says it looks like people are preparing for French toast and dysentery.

hombre said...

I have a pantry full of survival food. If the shtf, I want some perishables to enjoy while they last.

Confusing, isn't it?

TJIC said...

Eggs do not require refrigeration; they are locked inside a hermetic she'll. We collect ours from the barn and leave them on the counter for days, even weeks.

Selling refrigerated eggs is a weird cultural quirk, like selling refrigerated salt. Of course once the cultural equilibrium gets set, no one can defect and sell warm eggs - that'd be GROSS.

Harold said...

Having eaten many an unrefrigerated egg 60 days into an SSBN deterrent patrol- eggs are a good choice.

MaxedOutMama said...

This was a hilariously stupid question followed by a hilariously ridiculous suggested answer.

Few rational people worry about refrigeration loss due to a power outage during a major snowstorm. Presumably that is because most people know that snow is cold, sort of like ice. It's on-demand refrigeration.

Seriously, how urban-dumb do you have to be to write that in an article, and how urban-dumb does the editor have to be not to realize that it belongs in The Onion? This is another level of awesome stupid. This is so dumb that you wonder about the effective IQ institutional IQ of the staff. I don't know, maybe if those people have eight inches of snow outside and the power goes out they sadly throw out their perishables. That's urban dumb. Major league dumb. Total cannot-solve-practical-problems dumb.

People buy out the milk precisely because it IS perishable. If you think you are not going to be able to go to the store for a couple of days later than your normal schedule, you are going to buy milk even if you would normally have waited a few days to replenish your stock.

The reason the stores can run out of milk is that it IS perishable. Unlike toilet paper, fresh milk is ordered daily or every few days. Like those who purchase and consume fresh milk di, stores roll their stock of fresh milk with careful attention to buying patterns and expiration dates.

Sour milk is just a writeoff, so the stores carefully avoid sour milk. And many shoppers actually check the dates on the milk - I have seen plenty of stores let the milk almost run out on the shelf, because they know if they put the next group of containers up on the shelf with expiration dates four or five days later, some shoppers will reach in back and get the ones with the later expiration date.

I am awed by the stupid storm evidenced in this article. It settles over the intellectual landscape like a blanket, smothering normal thought and intellectual intercourse with a tragic, comic, antic sinister beauty.

mgarbowski said...

My gosh how stupid. People buy milk and eggs because they are every day staples for many of us. We're not stocking up for fear of an electric outage. I've never had an electric outage in a snow storm. But deliveries do get delayed and suspended and after some bad storms stores can be out of milk and eggs for 4-7 days. So you stock up to have enough to last until the deliveries resume.

It takes a special brand of stupid to ask 2 psychologists and an anthropologist to talk out of their asses instead of just asking one of the people doing the actual shopping.