Last week Mr T asked me to buy some muffins at the supermarket (store) and I bought these:
And it was weird because I obviously should have bought some of these:
But I must have had some kind of Anglo-brain-fuzz moment because when I heard muffin I went right down the toasted muffin/crumpet/pikelet route and nowhere near the scrummy-yummy muffin route. Very out of character.
And then it seemed to me that actually it was quite odd that with all the richness and diversity of the English language, these two similar (but yet not similar) products should have the same name. Why is that? Well, I’m blaming Fannie Farmer!
Fannie Farmer (apart from having one of the best names EVER) is famous as the author of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook which was first published in 1896. She’s also the woman who introduced standardised measuring to America’s cooks. The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook – available on Amazon here – was a bestseller and Fannie Farmer’s recipes for both types of muffins are included. And both called muffins.
So I’m thinking that after that, gradually a distinction was made whereby the type of muffins I bought (which can be cooked on a griddle pan and are formed using a muffin ring) became known over here as English Muffins and the other kind (which are baked in the oven in muffin pans) were simply muffins. Although I may be calling them American Muffins from here on in to make sure I bring home the right thing next time.
But what about muffins in the UK? Muffins must have pretty popular. Because about the time that Fannie Farmer started measuring out her cups of flour and writing cookbooks, Punch magazine published this drawing of a Muffin Man:
And in case anyone has forgotten it, the Muffin Man has his own little ditty:
Actually the muffin man sounded pretty annoying. A kind of pre-ice cream van noisy vender who rang a bell to tell everyone he was coming by with his muffins. I wonder if people back then used to tell their kids that the bell was only rung when he’d run out? Because I have heard it said that some parents nowadays tell their kids the ice cream van only plays the tune when it has run out of ice cream… Shocking!