Thursday, May 27, 2010

I love me some biscuits

I, am a biscuit connoisseur. The fact that I was born and raised in Sloss Holler, I think qualifies me as an authority on biscuits. 
I don’t consider myself a biscuit snob because I like all kinds of biscuits. I automatically disqualify the ones that come in cans and the ones they eat with tea in England because they’re really just cookies. It’s here in the good old south, we make real biscuits.  
My mama used to make biscuits that were as crunchy as a scone, especially the bottoms. 
There was an old green bowl she kept on the fridge that she used for biscuit making.  She’d sift the flour with a hand cranked sifter, toss in a little baking soda, a dash or two of salt, “a chunk of lard” and a few cups of fresh buttermilk. 
Then she’d slowly mix the concoction together and when the dough was like clay, she’d fold it over and over until it was just right. 
Then she’d roll it out on a sideboard with a rolling pin, and use a tea glass to punch out perfectly round biscuits. Next, she’d arrange them in an iron skillet “greezed” with lard (of course), and pop them babies in the oven.
They came out of the oven golden brown all over. There was enough lard in those biscuits to make your heart flutter when the cholesterol hit your blood stream. 
In fact, most of my mama’s recipes started off with, “take a chunk of lard and add……” 
Some folks bought lard in gallon buckets back then, but mama had her lard delivered in a truck once a month.  Hogs feared her.
When I was drafted into the Army, my basic training was in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. That’s far enough south that at least they knew what a biscuit was. Unfortunately, the cooks hadn’t perfected the art of biscuit making. When I pointed this out to the mess sergeant, he was not amused, so I found myself on KP (kitchen patrol) for a three days. My job was to peel mountains of potatoes and after lunch, I had to clean the cracks in the kitchen floor, with a toothbrush. I learned to keep my culinary comments to myself.
When I got to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, I had a feeling they were too far north of the Mason-Dixon Line to know about biscuits. This was confirmed when I asked for one that first day, he looked at me as if I were speaking Swahili.
I’d learned my lesson in Kentucky and didn’t dare bad-mouth the mess sergeant, so I moped off to my table and sulked as I munched on wilted toast.
When I got back home to mama’s house from the Army, I was so anxious to have me some homemade biscuits that I felt like eating lard with a spoon straight from the bucket. 
But mama got in the kitchen, fried up some eggs, made a pan of grits, fried some ham with red-eye gravy, and a huge pan of biscuits. I was back in heaven.
Jilda learned to make biscuits from her mom. Ruby’s biscuits were not like my mom’s, but were delightful nonetheless. They were like toasted clouds. Those biscuits were light, fluffy in the middle, and brown on the top and bottom. 
Her family introduced me to many new ways of eating biscuits. Not only did they eat them with eggs, grits and bacon, but they sometimes ate cheese inside theirs. 
They’d munch them with sausage and a slice of tomato inside. Sometimes they’d break them in two, pour fresh honey or sorghum syrup all over and eat them with a fork. I discovered that these were all good ways to enjoy biscuits.
Jilda made biscuits this morning and hers are a cross between the ones our mothers made.  
She doesn’t use lard, so my blood doesn’t slow down to a trickle when I eat them, but they are scrumptious just the same. I would know, because as I mentioned before, I am a connoisseur.

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