Wandering around the internet last night, I visited one of my favorite cooking sites, Pinch My Salt (the American in Sicily who takes such fantastically gorgeous photos of food (and a volcano erupting). She had a post about biscuits, which linked to another post about the best biscuits ever, and the truth is, I’ve been longing for biscuits lately. Not sure why. I do love them–is there anything as tender as a biscuit fresh out of the oven?–and I’ve been thinking about the boxes of my grandmother’s recipes a lot lately. I haven’t had a good one in awhile.
As long as I live, biscuits will be associated with the childhood of my boys and their father, making biscuits
on Sunday mornings. He liked cooking, and rituals, and early in our marriage, he established the habit of cooking on Sundays. A full Southern breakfast in the morning, all according to his particular plan–country potatoes with the skins still on, first boiled, then grilled in a cast iron skillet with salt and pepper to a perfect combination of crisp and tender. Bacon, always, which he carefully cooked flat on an electric skillet (which, intriguingly, I ended up with in the big Division of Things). Sometimes patties of hot country sausage. Scrambled eggs. And buttermilk biscuits, of course, slathered with butter and my plum jam, made from scratch. Coffee, orange juice, milk if you wished, all of it piled up on the dining room table, steaming and fragrant. Other people had dinner parties. We had Sunday breakfast parties–that’s when we added leaves to the table and stuffed guests with all the special tidbits.
He also cooked supper every Sunday–pork chops and mashed potatoes or the like in the winter, barbeque with his special sauce (the recipe for which you can find in No Place Like Home) in the summer, but breakfast was the marker of our family life.
It’s the biscuits I sometimes yearn for. They’re tangled in a thousand memories, and maybe it’s that younger me I’m thinking about, a nostalgia for those days when I could protect my babies from the vagaries of life so much more easily, when the Best Dog In the World still walked the earth, when life seemed fairly simple and straightforward and Ram made biscuits on Sunday morning, listening to a special combination of blues and soul and rock and roll as he cut biscuits with a bottle from our wedding, a tradition he learned from his parents, and his own father, who cooked biscuits for his children. He said that cooking on Sunday morning was his church.
I don’t actually have his recipe. Perhaps I should ask him for it. Pass it on to the boys, who will–because this is what children do–one day find themselves wanting to make Sunday breakfasts for their families. I hope they do, anyway.
Biscuits and southern cooking are somehow weaving themselves into the brewing new book. The best biscuits ever. I wonder what that particular recipe might be? What makes best? Is it Sunday morning light in early summer, slanting just so through that eastern window? The sound of The Persuasions singing "People Get Ready?" while bacon sizzles on the grill? The arranged faces of families and friends at a table drenched with light coming through lace curtains and two dogs pretending that they are not begging and two boys scarfing down biscuits–Ian with jam, Miles with honey?
This is what I know about R’s biscuits: a pile of flour, baking powder (only half as much as you think you need when you deal with high altitudes), salt, a little sugar, butter cut into the mix (or use your hands to squish it all together if you’re in a hurry) then buttermilk to make it all stick together, and roll it out on a counter and cut biscuits with something you like, that has some memories, and bake in a very hot oven for 8 or 10 minutes. Extra points if you’re wearing cutoff jean shorts and sweat socks with little lines around the top and an apron somebody brought you from a trip.
Mmmm. What’s your best family food memory? Do you know how to make that dish?