by Sara Mead
I was pleased to see Ben mention Jiffy Mix in his corn pudding post the other day–and to stand by the recommendation when the commenters ribbed him for it. Growing up in the Midwest, Jiffy Mix was a common feature in our household, and I’m still a fan of it, for several reasons: It’s traditional (the boxes look like they stepped out of Mad Men), easy, cheap (an 8.5 ounce box of muffin mix will set you back 50 to 70 cents), and it turns out a darn good sweet cornbread muffin. Most important, all the Jiffy Mix in the world is made in my hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, where I just came back from celebrating Thanksgiving (a meal that, yes, included Jiffy cornbread muffins).
The Jiffy factory and its grain towers, pictured here, are a major Chelsea landmark. I graduated from high school with the Holmes twins, the third generation of twins in the family that owns Chelsea Milling, which produces Jiffy Mix, and the great grandsons of Mrs. Holmes, who invented Jiffy Mix. Elderly folks in Chelsea can still tell stories about being called into the Holmes’ back yard as youngsters to taste test her latest creations as she developed Jiffy Mix. Chelsea Milling employs many people in Chelsea and the surrounding community: Growing up we had a family friend who worked at Jiffy and would frequently show up at potlucks and other events with a tray of delicious baked goods fresh from the Jiffy test kitchen, where they develop new products and recipes based on Jiffy Mix. And every year Chelsea Milling sponsors a semi truck in the Chelsea Fair Parade, which tosses boxes of Jiffy Mix to the parade watchers, alongside the candy that Fair Queen contestants toss to children. I don’t buy Jiffy Mix all that often, because I don’t have much call to make a batch of muffins (although you will find a box of corn muffin mix–the best Jiffy Mix–in my cupboards at all times), but every time I see it in the grocery store, it reminds me of home, and it encourages me. After all, if a little company from Chelsea can make its imprint on the culinary consciousness of people all over this country–and, increasingly all over the world–then maybe a small town girl like me can make good in the big city, too.