Up the Valley: Smart Cookie

July 17, 2013

Is the global economic crisis leading to a severe shortage of snickerdoodles? My latest column in the Star…

One subject I wish that I had studied more closely in school is economics. What seemed like such an abstract field in my youth now appears to provide the secret decoder ring essential to deciphering the world.

My formal training in economics mirrored Father Guido Sarducci’s “Five Minute University” — which reduced college subjects to whatever graduates were likely to remember five years after graduating. All I recall of the entire economics curriculum is: “supply and demand.” Later, I learned from Russell Crowe — playing a dishy but deranged mathematician in “A Beautiful Mind” — that world-changing economic theory could be based upon the number of women a guy could pick up in a bar.

But for a crash-course in supply and demand, I encourage you to visit the coffee counter at Dean & DeLuca, where I am currently waging a one-woman campaign to educate the staff on the serious economic implications of their inability to provide as many snickerdoodle cookies as the public, specifically I, might wish to consume.

I often swing by D&D as I traverse the valley in my epic, eternal search for the elusive snickerdoodle, like some philosophical but low-blood-sugared combination of Kung Fu and Cookie Monster. I stride through the tourist-filled shop with the smug confidence of a Napa Valley local and former NYC D&D devotee who has seen everything — specifically their complete cookie collection — before. Making a beeline for the coffee counter, I scan the baked goods selection in guarded anticipation, spotting large peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies piled high.

“Do you have any snickerdoodles today?” I inquire, seeing none on display. “No,” they reply, “they are all gone.” Noting my disappointment, they add, forcefully: “You have to get here earlier,” clarifying — should there be any doubt — that my failure to obtain a snickerdoodle was due entirely to my own lack of character. What they don’t understand, aside from the time-demands posed by my multiple careers, is that I begin each day with a firm resolve to avoid snacking and sweets. It is only by late afternoon — when the pressure of construction-related traffic delays, dropped cell phone conversations and landline robocalls have driven me to the emotional breaking point — that I reach for a restorative cookie.

“Why don’t you bake more?” I once asked, realizing the folly of the question as soon as it left my lips. These cookies are likely not baked on the premises, and certainly not in quantities specified by local managers. They are probably imported from some distant NAFTA or Eurozone-partner and distributed by computer according to a demographic formula calculated by postal code. A global economic trade imbalance caused by Ben Bernanke and Ayn Rand has led to embargoes of Brazilian sugar, Sri Lankan cinnamon and Asian flour — creating a severe worldwide shortage of snickerdoodles.

“Why don’t you bake them yourself?” I hear you asking, hopefully realizing the folly of your question as soon as it left your lips. Yes, why don’t I have my chef do it, or my maid, or my movie star boyfriend, for that matter? The better question is: In an America where the customer is always right, where supply is supposed to be carefully calibrated to satisfy demand, and where elite gourmet food chains exist for the sole purpose of catering to a consumer’s urgent, illogical desire for a $4 tomato, a $40 slice of cheese or a $400 pound of cat-anus coffee — in that great country — why can’t Dean & DeLuca keep snickerdoodles in stock?

One doesn’t need a degree in economics to understand the implications of my writing this column. Having planted the seed in your beautiful but impressionable minds — for why would you still be reading a newspaper if you were not, to some degree, impressionable — you will now crave snickerdoodles, dream about snickerdoodles, and stop the owner of Dean & DeLuca in the street to demand snickerdoodles.

He will write a memo, which will be forwarded to corporate headquarters, where the VP of Baked Goods will elicit the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce to ease restrictions on sugars and spices (including cream of tartar — a dash of which distinguishes the true snickerdoodle). Guidelines will be promulgated to individual stores mandating that snickerdoodles be stocked at all times; failure to do so will lead to reprimands, loss of promotions and bonuses paid entirely in the form of those peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies that have been sitting around, untouched, all day. Snickerdoodles will become as ubiquitous at Dean & DeLuca as snazzy square napkins and crisp white handle bags.

But when that day comes, will I still want that snickerdoodle? Will you? Only an economist knows for sure.

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