Magic box

March 1, 2020 § 14 Comments

When I was a kid my mom often made biscuits. For years she had a big orange steel can filled with flour. She’d mix the flour with milk in a bowl, then dump it out on the counter, cut out the biscuits, and bake them. Mom always made biscuits with something called wagon wheel gravy, but this story isn’t about that.

When I got a little older and mom got a lot busier, she started buying Bisquick. The biscuits tasted the same but I knew how to read and any fool knew that Bisquick meant “Biscuits, quick.” And mom made biscuits, quick.

I didn’t know the difference between that old orange steel can and the Bisquick except that it was clear that the Bisquick was a type of magic box. It had biscuit powers that the old steel can didn’t have. Why else would mom buy it? In those days they stuck the price tags on the box and you could see it was a lot more expensive than those big, leaky bags of flour. The Bisquick magic box was yellow with blue writing and on the front it had delicious biscuits. The magic box also explained, magically, that with Bisquick you could also make pancakes. Of course the Bisquick box never dribbled flour out of the corners.

All those things together made Bisquick whatever is more mysterious and wonderful to a little kid than “magical.”

About fifty years later I started making my own biscuits. I made them out of flour, with some milk, some baking powder, some baking soda, a little salt, and a little sugar. With practice I learned to make them well. I was still unsure about my biscuits, though, because of Bisquick. I had it in my mind that Bisquick was something different and somehow special. I knew it was more expensive.

So in a fit of curiosity I googled “Bisquick ingredients.” It turns out that Bisquick is flour, baking powder, baking soda, a little sugar, a little oil, and a few not especially notable chemicals. And to make biscuits out of Bisquick you have to add milk. In other words, Bisquick is exactly like my own biscuit ingredients, except that:

  1. Mine doesn’t have any chemicals.
  2. Mine only costs a few cents, whereas Bisquick biscuits cost a lot more.

In other words, if you want to make biscuits from the magic box or from a sack of flour, you need the same ingredients and you still have to provide your own milk. What you lose is the pretty packaging and the higher cost.

This reminded me of cycling. There are so many magic boxes out there. Coaches, training plans, power meters, computers, virtual workouts, spin classes, aero and electro and carbon equipment of every kind, and I don’t know what else.

At the end of the day, though, same as in the beginning and the middle, cycling all boils down to the same thing. If you want to ride faster, you have to go out and ride your bike a lot. And you have to, from time to time, ride it hard. The magic in the box, I guess, is realizing that there isn’t any magic.



§ 14 Responses to Magic box

  • Margaret Smiddy says:

    Excellent. Now I’m craving biscuits…

  • Add almonds, cook them halfway, slice them up, finish cooking them, and you’ve got biscotti. There you go.

  • RGT says:

    Bisquick is magical, it can turn a biscuit into a pancake and a pancake into a biscuit.

  • Vlad Luskin says:

    Bisquick saves time, time is money, so maybe not as expensive as the price indicates. Btw, I’ve never had anything made out of Bisquick.

    • fsethd says:

      I think it saves 1 minute tops, the time it takes to measure salt, soda, and sugar. So for me, big $.

  • I suppose it does save time, but the devil is in the details. In both recipes you have to measure out the main ingredient. For scratch you have to find those pesky little measuring spoons, “Who last used the 2 Tsp spoon and didn’t replace it”, and of course, you have to have powder and soda in your cabinet. Is it fresh? How fresh is the box of Bisquick?

    I suppose time is saved because unless you make the scratch recipe enough, you have to find the book that has the recipe to follow, whereas Bisquick has it right on the box.

    I remember looking to the spot where the pancake recipe had always been only to find they moved it to another part of the box.

    Bisquick was a convenience for my Mom, because “I” could take the box down, and make my pancakes, or make biscuits if that is what I wanted, and I wouldn’t have to trouble her.

    I think we, as in my wife and I had Bisquick in the pantry for a while when my girls were growing up, but at some point I took a greater interest in preparing food, and soon I had a cookbook that had delicious pancake and biscuit recipes, and then there was no more Bisquick boxes in the house.

    I made a lot of Bisquick pancakes though.

    • fsethd says:

      The consumer has spoken loudly: Bisquick, please! The contrarian, that would be you, still prefers to make his own!

  • Rick says:

    If your mom had been making biscuits by taking “flour” out of the big, orange can and mixing it with milk, maybe you had been missing the step where she had been dumping the contents of the Bisquick box into the big, orange can?

  • Joe Clement says:

    Anxiously awaiting the followup gravy story…..

  • Rick says:

    Ever since college, the only pancake recipe I have ever used is the one Leon Hale published in the Houston Chronicle sometime in the late ’70s. He says that he learned it from Mimi Vick, “the only mother-in-law I ever had.”

    • fsethd says:

      If it was in the mid-70s, you got it out of the Houston Post! Leon moved over to the Chronicle in 1984 after writing for 32 years at the Post. I remember reading his columns as a kid. He is 98 and still blogs for the Crank …

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