Where’s the Egg?

A family member who knows I like muffins gave me a stack of muffin mixes recently, and I just made a tasty batch of lemon poppy seed muffins. All you had to do was add milk–no eggs. Is this something new? It seems like all other mixes (cake, brownie) require you to add eggs.

A quick survey of our household mixes reveals that some require eggs and some don’t:

Mix CompanyRequires EggsDoes NotFounded
Jiffy :) 1887
Pillsbury :) 1869
WhiteLily :D 1859
Martha White :D 1899

As it turns out, there’s no reason one must add eggs to a mix: it’s just a psychological ploy to make cooks feel as though they’re contributing to the process. From this week’s U.S. News:

Marketers learned a few tricks along the way. The first instant cake mix was introduced in 1931, but 20 years later, many women were still baking from scratch. The “egg theory”–leave the dehydrated eggs out, and women would regain their sense of ownership as they cracked fresh eggs into the batter–is credited with winning more converts.

It’s like the suds in soaps: added to replace a felt need of consumers, even when the real need is gone. A surprising number of digital cameras make the clicking shutter sound of an SLR for the same reason, I suppose.

And the founding dates help explain–nothing at all. But I’m not going to delete them after looking them up.

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