Cake or Death 2: Caraway Carrot Cake with Poppy Seeds vs Global Pandemic

It’s another weekend, and it’s another chance to choose between cake, or death!

Obviously, there is far too much going on [travelling, home-hunting, suit-buying, job interviews, etc] for this to happen every weekend, but I will have to see what I can do about midweek occurrences.

The Cake


Caraway Carrot Cake with Poppy Seeds, another of Ruby Tandoh’s creations, the recipes for which are no longer available on the internet.

This is not my Mother’s carrot cake, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t your Mother’s carrot cake either. It is mainly two things. One, amazing. Two, very little to do with carrot cakes.

Adding poppy seeds to a cake is something that most people will come across, and the caraway seeds are a bit like that, except turned up to eleven. I really like caraway seeds, and they have a very distinctive taste, which is really well suited to the brown sugar and carrot background to the cake. Adding the poppy seeds.. I’m not entirely sure why the poppy seeds are there. Perhaps the caraway would be too overwhelming without the attempt by the poppy seeds to distract.

I did lots of things wrong with this cake. I had the wrong type of sugar, which I think is one reason why the cake didn’t rise as much as perhaps it ought to have. Also, instead of improvising some way to crush the caraway seeds I just through them in whole. I don’t know, I used to put so much effort into following every tiny detail of a recipe, but I never seem able to bake anything without deviating at least twice.

The Death

Global Pandemic

This makes for an interesting contrast with the first week’s death, in that a global pandemic is pretty close to being a viral revenge from animals upon humanity, minus the conscious decision-making, moral culpability and possible feelings of guilt afterwards.

A novel virus certainly has the potential to kill an awful lot of people pretty quickly, and while it’s a bit of an evolutionary dead-end for a pathogen to kill all it’s hosts, these sorts of things can happen by accident. That said, it’s very unlikely that any such pathogen will emerge that is simultaneously very infectious and very deadly – at least deadly to a doomsday extent, rather than a that was an awful event in human history extent.

The two worst episodes of this type that have occurred in history are worth briefly considering. The Black Death immediately comes to mind, the effects of which you can simulate on your family and friends by rolling a pair of six-sided dice for everyone you know. Score a six or less, and they’re dead. Rosie’s told her History teacher about that one. While devastating, it’s possible to read histories of the period, say of the Hundred Years’ War, which treat it as something of a footnote. Hardly a doomsday.

The arrival of diseases such as smallpox in the Americas, brought by Europeans, arguably did have doomsday-scale impacts. Yet this was only possible because the diseases had spent many years in an evolutionary arms race with the immune systems of Europeans. This process wouldn’t happen with a new pathogen that had just jumped the species barrier.

The book argues that one key difference with the Black Death is that society is now so inter-dependent that the disruption created by a pandemic would lead to the flows of trade breaking down, and society collapsing. In 14th century Europe, the importance of trade for survival was minimal. Most people were mostly self-sufficient, and they needed to be in normal life. Thus they wouldn’t be all that affected by the disruption to trade created by the deaths of ~40% of the population.

This really isn’t the case now. What that means is that in the case of a pandemic, the greatest risk to your life is not the disease itself, but the social panic that results and the consequent failure of energy and food supplies. This death might also have been called Mass Hysteria.

Cake or Death – what is your choice?


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