Does anyone have a recipe for flatbread?

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 13, 2020 - April 19, 2020.
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Thieves don’t go for gold nowadays. Instead, they prefer bread. What’s the use of gold when bread is the currency, right?

It was quite amusing to read about the Gardenia van that was stolen in Kuala Lumpur a week ago and found on the same day in Kuala Terengganu. Thankfully, the driver was unhurt and the contents (bread!) of the van were intact.

What we don’t know is whether the contents actually made it to the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores.

The incident occurred around the time when many were complaining they could not find bread on supermarket shelves. The people at Gardenia must have been perplexed by how much more bread Malaysians are consuming — so much that it caused a shortage.

There can only be one explanation ... panic buying or, in more contemporary language, hamsteren, which means to stuff your cheeks full like a hamster.

Bread is but one of the many items Malaysians have been hoarding. It started with disposable three-ply face masks and hand sanitisers, way before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented.

Antibacterial wipes were next because we were advised to regularly clean our smartphones and wipe frequently touched surfaces.

When the MCO was announced and the coronavirus situation got more serious, we went on red alert and the panic buying intensified.

Remember the horrendously long queues of people with trolleys filled to the brim just before the MCO came into effect? I thought I would outsmart everyone by buying essentials a day later.

But lo and behold, the shelves were bare, as supermarkets were unable to replenish supplies fast enough. As I walked through the aisles, half regretting I had not jumped on the panic-buying bandwagon, I was greeted by row upon row of empty shelves.

Popular grocery items were gone. Tuna, pasta, pasta sauce, chicken, eggs and instant noodles — all gone. Anything in a can — gone.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is hamsteren for you.

But we shouldn’t feel too bad about our panic buying because it is happening worldwide. My weekly Zoom session with friends, one in Italy and another in Australia, shows the same kind of shopping patterns among consumers in those countries.

Psychologists reassure us that this is a herd mentality issue. When one person does it, it stirs in us an instinct to do the same. That then causes a ripple effect that sends everyone into a frenzy.

That frenzy — along with worldwide shortages— has caused the price of disposable three-ply face masks that once cost 80 sen apiece to shoot up to RM1.50. It rose to as high as RM2 until the government lowered the ceiling price to RM1.50.

Grocery shopping also seems to cost more now per basket, from what I’ve heard. I can’t be sure whether the prices of goods have increased because of the higher demand or because there are fewer promotions these days.

Anyway, the panic buying seems to have subsided. You no longer get intense aunties giving you killer stares as you pick up the last head of lettuce.

But, now, to my dismay, everyone has taken to baking and, might I add, breadmaking in particular! Supermarket shelves are now sans bread flour, flour and yeast. Neither was there a single container of baking powder to be seen during my grocery run last week.

Well, I guess my family will just have to eat flatbread till the supermarket shelves are restocked with yeast and flour.

Anyone have a recipe for flatbread?

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