While it seems like much of the economy is suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the makers of some household products are thriving. It has become apparent that there are a handful of items Americans refuse to live without during quarantine: toilet paper, alcohol, hand sanitizer, guns and flour.
Alongside the empty grocery store shelves where packages of Charmin, Lysol and Maruchan ramen once sat are the powdered outlines of vanished bags of flour — like crime scene evidence of a mass All Purpose grain rapture.
Those of us who want to bake cookies or cakes to eat our feelings, to stuff down our anxiety with chocolate-frosted crumbs, cannot. Those who want to knead bread by hand to feel needed, to have enough flour to feed our sourdough starters, cannot.
The bleached flour is gone. The bread flour is gone. The whole wheat flour is gone. Even the cornmeal is gone.
Some of us have tried to bake with "alternative" flours, made of chickpeas or almonds or spelt. But, to be honest, having to add in binders or ingredients like apple cider vinegar or arrowroot or aquafaba makes the entire process of baking your emotions feel a little too healthy.
“Despite how it may seem, there is actually plenty of flour ― just high demand with the dramatic increase in home baking," Carrie Underwood of King Arthur Flour told HuffPost about the apparent shortage. “People who used to bake a few times a month are now baking a few times per week.” (According to Adweek, King Arthur Flour sales were up 2,000% in March.)
So if you can't find flour at the supermarket, where can you find it?
Midway, Kentucky's Weisenberger Mill is a sixth-generation family-run business that's been in operation since the 1860s. August Weisenberger left Germany and started the mill, purchasing the current location nestled on South Elkhorn Creek in 1865. Mac Weisenberger and his son, Philip, oversee operations today.
"Being a small mill, we take extra pride in the quality of our products. I think that comes out in the final baked good," says Philip in an email. "We are family-owned and we are hands-on — involved in every step of the business."
Many local Greater Cincinnati eateries serve the mill's super popular grits during Sunday brunch, but the company offers more than that.
Head to their website to find pretty much any type of flour — all-purpose, self-rising, various bread flours, whole wheat flour, rye flour, seasoned flour, whole wheat pastry flour — plus white and yellow cornmeal, baking mixes (biscuits, hushpuppy, pancake, pizza crust, banana bread, etc.), yeast and, yes, grits.
"I think with folks home and the extra time on their hands, people figured they would try baking. It’s something everyone can take part in and enjoy, whether you are doing the baking or enjoying the finished product. Good food brings a smile to your face and brings people together — even if they are locked down inside their homes," Philip says.
Weisenberger's flours are currently available for purchase online. Philip says they are in-stock, and online sales have increased dramatically these past few months.
"The run on flour caught us at the beginning, too — we just didn’t have a large stock of consumer size bags," he says. "Most of what we sold was for food service and I think that went industry-wide. The food was there, it just wasn’t packaged for retail sale. We are a small business and can switch gears quickly, so that enabled us to build our stock for retail sale quick."
You can have Weisenberger products shipped directly to your home via FedEx or UPS, says their website.
The unbleached all purpose flour is $3.95 for a 5-pound bag (they also have a 25-pound bag aimed at hotels and restaurants for $9.95) and it ships in three to five business days. Some more specialized flours, like a high-gluten bread flour, will take one to two weeks to ship.