The Thanksgiving table is an all-out paen to comfort foods. It’s the kind of food you eat when you’re with your people, whatever that might mean for your particular family or friend group. The very routine of the meal — always the turkey, always the mac and cheese, always the matar paneer, always the mofongo — offers its own form of comfort.
But in America, there’s nothing more comforting than a Brand. On tables across the nation, Thanksgiving means Stove Top stuffing, McCormick gravy mix, and Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. For my money, the single best option in the prepackaged Thanksgiving pantheon is Jiffy corn muffin mix. I make and serve the muffins every year.
According to the history published on its website, Jiffy Mix has been on shelves since the 1930s. The Michigan-based, family-owned Chelsea Milling Co. credits late matriarch Mabel Holmes with creating the country’s first packaged baking mix, a biscuit mix. The company introduced the corn muffin mix in 1950; very little has changed with the product in the 70-plus years it’s been available at grocery stores. It’s hard to think of another packed baking mix with a longer history of loyalty.
The staying power isn’t surprising for anyone who’s actually had it. Crumbly and sweet, with a deep corn taste, a warm Jiffy corn muffin — or, if you follow the alternative package instructions, a square of warm Jiffy corn bread — with a generous spread of butter is so satisfying. If you have leftover muffins, serve them for breakfast the next morning: Split them down the middle, diner-style, and toast them in a pan with melted butter.
Does it match the cornbread recipes passed down through the generations in the South? Probably not. But I wouldn’t know. Born and raised in New Jersey by two Jewish parents who were also born and raised in New Jersey, our culinary traditions are more defined by where we dined out (diners; see muffin tip above) and the staple dishes of our holidays (brisket at Rosh Hashanah and Passover seder, bagels and lox to break the Yom Kippur fast). Neither of my grandmothers liked to cook much, and as they raised their own children in the 1950s and ’60s, they embraced the convenience food corporate America promised them would make cooking less arduous. Jiffy corn muffins really are impossible to mess up; the instructions and the product truly are so dialed in that it’s easy for even the most reluctant cook to get them right. It was my grandmothers who introduced me to canned cranberry jelly and bake-from-the-box muffins in the first place.
And so, like many others, I’ll be setting my Thanksgiving table with dishes informed by my family’s traditions. Tradition dictates I’ll find my comfort in a Jiffy corn muffin.
Heedayah Lockman is a Glasgow-based illustrator and designer.