I’m a baking fundamentalist: no mixes ever, no freezer case puff pastry, and until I live in Montreal or France no tartes or gateaux from a bakery. No whomp biscuits from a can, unless I’m cooking in a lake house in the UP and the flour there has been collecting pantry flies for eight months. I do buy bread and English muffins, but I bake them too. I have never bought a cake mix.
Please don’t think I’m setting myself up as a purist paragon — I just really like to bake. So why, when it goes on sale for under fifty cents, do I stuff the shopping basket with six boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix? Cornbread is so easy and cheap to make that buying a mix makes no sense at all.
(For all my American readers, especially my Southern friends, it might interest you to know that a cornmeal flatbread, aka hoecake or Johnny Cake is a traditional and ancient Quebec recipe — we have the maple syrup after all. In fact an old racist English-Canadian chant went like this:” Pea soup and Johnny Cake makes a Frenchman’s belly ache.” The pea soup is made with whole, not split dried yellow peas and chunks of ham and I love it.)
We still have to add egg and milk to the mix, so it’s no money saver and it’s a mere thirty seconds faster than making your own. So why do I, and zillions of others love a box of Jiffy? I can’t speak for the zillions, but I can speak for me: it tastes good, it’s convenient and I don’t have to throw out a neglected canister of cornmeal because flies drift up my nose when I open it. It tastes good because it contains lard –pig fat, so glorious!
And for those nights when rice or pasta don’t feel right,I’m lazy, and there are no potatoes rattling around on the bottom shelf of the fridge, Jiffy is my friend. It’s so versatile: muffins, pancakes, waffles Hush Puppies or a pan of classic cornbread. We like to add a chopped jalapeño and some frozen corn for a silly Tex-Mex sensation. Speaking of Tex-Mex, pour it over a cast iron skillet of chile and there you are: a tamale pie.
But I don’t ever buy it unless it’s on sale. I understocked the last time, and I’ve been mixing my own for a few months, which is no hardship. One thing I know is true — it will be cheap just before Thanksgiving and I’ll do some serious stocking up. With the cornucopia of cooking that comes with that holiday I love me a box of Jiffy mixed with all those holiday herbs to transform it into cornbread dressing.
Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix from the folks in Chelsea, Michigan — when it’s cheap it’s for sure cheerful.