Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pancakes Anyone?

It was spring break for me last week, so when I got back up here for school on Sunday evening, I realized that there was nothing to eat in my apartment. Ok, there were things to eat, however since most of the stuff left in the fridge were food items that wouldn’t go bad, there wasn’t a lot of food I could piece together to make a meal with. So my roommate and I went to the supermarket to stock our fridge with food, which always makes me happy.

Now, one item we had used up before the break was pancake mix. Now, for as long as I can remember my family has been a Bisquick house, so naturally I went looking for the Bisquick when we finally found the pancake mix. However, we soon realized there was no dry pancake mix.

So instead, I wanted to try Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix. And that is what we bought. I’m assuming most people are familiar with Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix, it has been around since 1888, a long time.

But what most don’t know is the reason I wanted Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix was because I read an article on it in one of my history classes. Yes, I am enough of a nerd to seek out specific brands because of their historical appeal.

This article explained the entire history of Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix, over the last 100 years it has been around. It first explained how the mix got its name. The original founders, Chris L. Rutt and Charles G. Underwood created a mix, and needed a brand name to go along with it. After seeing a show Rutt stumbled on the name Aunt Jemima after seeing a show featuring a character with the same name.

The Aunt Jemima character was a staple for comedy shows in the South after the Civil War. She was a character in the same way Uncle Tom was, usually being the butt of a joke. However, she was unparalleled in the kitchen, an amazing cook. She was similar to the mammy character, which is basically the well-treated content happy slave character Southerners created to help justify slavery. That’s right, when you buy Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix, you’re really buying into a long held stereotype.

Aunt Jemima went through a transformation, and an elaborate story was placed behind her character. Crafty marketers shaped her into a real woman, one who witnessed the Civil War, and whose pancakes were known throughout the South. After the war, the story went, she sold her recipe so people at home could enjoy the same wonderful pancakes she had made before. Though the sales pitch, and the colorful women found to portray Aunt Jemima, the pancakes began to sell quickly, and became a hit in the U.S. It was a simple illusion, the working class woman could have the luxurious pancakes featured in a Plantation in the South. And it worked.

Most of my information I received from an article I had to read for a class, “Aunt Jemima Explained: The Old South, the Absent Mistress, and the Slave in a Box” by Maurice M. Manring. Therefore, it is only right to credit him for his research, and for the information I gained from it. As always, if you want to learn more about the subject, read the material. Also while searching I found that Manring also published a book titled: “Slave in a Box: the Strange Career of Aunt Jemima.”

I must admit: Aunt Jemima makes a good pancake. So go break open the box of pancake mix, and stir up a little history.


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  2. Haha we use the Aunt Jemima complete mix all the time at my house! A delicious history lesson lol