Family bonding in a Jiffy (muffin box)


Inspired by the suggestion of “fancy food.”

It was Saturday morning, and my sister, the middle one — two years older than me — the most annoying age difference at this time in my life, was making Jiffy blueberry muffins. If you’re not familiar with Jiffy muffins, just imagine an incredibly generic box with the word, Jiffy in blue letters — faded letters — at the top of the box, and a picture of a real blueberry muffin right in the middle — nothing else, just those two things. Upon opening this prestige packaging, you’d find a bag that almost seems to be made from parchment paper, filled with a thick white powder and in this case, little purple circles that from a distance resembled a possible infestation.

My sister poured the powder into the bowl, then turned and left for the fridge, I made my way over to grab one of the purple things or “blueberries”. They were small round, purple beads that would explode into purple dust if smash between the index finger and thumb. I did this every time they were being made and then would lick the dust from my hand. My sister would yell at me to get my grubby hands out of the bowl and I would ignore her, thinking: well, they taste like blueberries after they’re melted in the muffins.

A matter of minutes later and I think the addition of some milk, the bowl of white, now paste with purple specks that had been poured into the muffin tin had magically become these amazing looking muffins. This was one of those times in my life that I could say the actual product looked better than the picture on the box. So, kudos to the people at Jiffy for underselling, this was a great marketing strategy. Also, kind of a nice surprise for us lower to middle income families.

Anyway, my sister and I would sit around the table, eating the muffins that were steaming from the oven. Cut them in half and watch the butter melt off the knife, before even touching the muffins. I’m telling you these muffins were somethin’ else — and what I mean by that is that they were not real food.

Without fail, my mother would walk through the kitchen saying, “Ooh, you made muffins, as if taken aback. This literally happened every Saturday. My sister would smile proud at the fact that she poured a bag into a bowl and added some milk and I would contemplate having thirds, which always ended up in me having a third.

“Hey, you have to clean up, since I made the muffins,” my sister would say in a low voice from across the table. I would argue that first of all I didn’t suggest the muffins. This is where having thirds always bit me in the ass. “You seemed to like them, you had three,” she’d say condescendingly. Smart enough to know that the fact that she made the muffins, if brought to the attention of my mother, would ultimately result in my doing the dishes, I resorted to ridicule. I would remind her of how miniscule a task it was to pour a bag in a bowl and stir it around. This always landed on deaf ears, as she’d strut over with her plate and knife, handing it to me with a smirk while kind of singing, “Here you go.”

A few months later, I remember thinking it would be great if my mother would let me make dinner. We’d all seen those muffins before and making dinner would really show my sister. So, after a surprisingly small amount of convincing, my mother let me make dinner. I was somewhere around twelve years old or some reasonable age at which you’ve learned the art of boiling noodles, so that became the basis of my dish. It was going to be great! I had gotten my idea from a family gathering we had been at weeks before. Someone always brought a noodle dish and after eating a little and “figuring out” the ingredients, I thought, this is going to be a synch.

The day came and I was making dinner. I boiled the noodles, elbow noodles to perfection — soft all the way through, no chewy parts. Then, I added mayonnaise, lots of mayonnaise those salads were creamy and the jar in the fridge even suggested its use in pasta salads — bingo! This would be perfect. I then fancied things up with some frozen peas that I microwaved and added tiny squares of Velveeta cheese. I covered it up and put it in the fridge until dinnertime, because that is how I saw it done at every family gathering I could remember. For those of you that know me well, this is strangly not the reason I no longer eat mayonnaise — it should be, but that is a whole other story.

Within a couple of hours, dinner was served, and bless my mother, she made it through about two or three spoonfuls before calling it quits.

I’m proud to say that since this day, my culinary achievements have skyrocketed me towards a successful career in the food industry — this actually is nowhere near true, but how cool of a story would that have been? I will say that I can make a hell of a sandwich though — no seriously, people have complimented me on my sandwiches. This is a real thing. Also, we had blueberry Jiffy muffins most every Saturday, for the next six years until my sister moved away to college.

Sara Palmer is a an improviser-writer-storyteller based in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Share your ideas for her next blog in the comments below.

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