This is a sad day. I finished my last box of Aunt Jemima Buckwheat Pancake mix. Quaker discontinued that line of the brand a while back. Now all the stock I had in the larder is gone. I’ll never slather butter and maple syrup over those flapjacks again.
Aunt Jemima buttermilk mix is still everywhere of course. Yuck. There’s even an Aunt Jemima whole wheat pancake mix available. Double yuck. No substitutes accepted, thank you.
Aunt Jemima has a rich history spanning over 115 years. Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood of the Pearl Milling Company developed Aunt Jemima, the first ready mix. The image of Aunt Jemima was so popular that the company was renamed the Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1914. Then in 1926 The Quaker Oats Company purchased the Aunt Jemima Mills Company, and has owned the brand since. The brand is still alive and well, but apparently my favorite Buckwheats are no more.
There are plenty of other buckwheat pancake mixes, and one can always buy buckwheat flower and make them from scratch. But it’s not the same. I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We lived in house at 908 Carey Avenue that is still there. I look at it today and the memories deluge my brain. I just don’t remember that house being so tiny. That’s where I first became an Aunt Jemima Buckwheat addict. I’m proud to say there were few other addictions in that neighborhood.
I wonder why Quaker isn’t making this wonderful product anymore? Could it be that some misguided person or group has made the awful “R” accusation: racism? If so, I suppose it is based on the Black kid in The Little Rascals being named “Buckwheat” and Aunt Jemima being portrayed on the box as a Black woman who makes pancakes. Now, if they were still portraying her in a scarf looking like a house slave, I could sympathize. But that’s not the case anymore, and hasn’t been for decades. So, surely I’m wrong. Quaker must have just made a business decision based on market demand. Right.
Well, if there were an accusation that somehow Aunt Jemima’s Buckwheat Pancake Mix is racist [In San Francisco the mayor says Happy Meals are racist] I don’t have a hard time believing that Quaker, like every other corporation in America, immediately tucked its tail between its legs and fell into a fit of political correctness, slobbering and apologizing for itself and Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood as well for an unbroken record of 121 years of the most egregious racism.
But here’s how ridiculous it would be to call Quaker racist for using the image of a Black woman and buckwheat flour to market a product. I was first introduced to Aunt Jemima’s Buckwheat pancakes by none other than Mama Hattie, the grandmother who lived across the street from my family in Cheyenne in the 1950’s. Mama Hattie is the person who influenced my childhood as much as any other adult on the planet at that time. She disciplined all children who were in her immediate sight, and since I was in that realm most of the time I learned to mind my manners as much from her as from my own mother. And my mother whole-heartedly approved.
Of all the memories I have from those days, one thing I didn’t know at the time, or simply didn’t take any notice of, is that Mama Hattie was a Black woman. It just wasn’t of any importance to me at the time, and is now only because racial consciousness is so much more extant now than it was in that time and place. Mama Hattie’s family were very close friends with my mother. My father died when I was 9 and Mama Hattie and her family gave solid support to my mother and me during that time, and when my mother died three months shy of 100 years old, the last member of Mama Hattie’s family still living in Cheyenne sent a note regretting she couldn’t attend my mother’s funeral. She was the same age as my mother, and too frail to travel.
That’s a lost world now. It had a lot going for it, including Aunt Jemima’s Buckwheat Pancake Mix. I don’t approve of Quaker’s decision, whatever the reason. If Mama Hattie were here I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t approve either.
UPDATE: Racist cupcakes? Everything is racist.