Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mammy's Little Baby Loves Shortenin' Bread

Sometimes we get so used to enjoying things the way they are, that we don't bother looking for something better, something maybe more enjoyable. Complacency doesn't just happen when you accept a bad situation without trying to better it. Complacency also happens when you accept a good situation as the end all and be all.

This point was driven home to me in a biscuit. It wasn't bearing a saintly face, it didn't talk, the crumbs didn't fall appart into the shape of the burning sacred heart. It was just an ordinary damned buttermilk biscuit.

I make my own biscuits, always have, always will. I don't do biscuits out of a can, in fact, I don't even consider them real biscuits. I make biscuits the way my Mom made them, which was the way my Grandma Black made them. I've been doing this for at least the 30 years since I moved from my parents' home. I probably made them before that. I know I used to "help" my Mom cut them out.

So, basically, I've been eating the same biscuit for all my life. Decent flake, but not overly fluffy or doughy. It's definitely a Northern type of biscuit, compared to some of the Southern stylings that I've sampled. It's a good biscuit. They've graced many a groaning board and came away with praise.

I've made that very same biscuit a couple of times for Steve. He liked it okay, appreciated the effort. Then, a couple of months ago, out of the blue, nary a biscuit in sight, he said, "Have you ever tried making those biscuits a little fluffier? Kind of like the pancakes I make, so they're lighter?" I have to tell you, Steve, no question about it, makes the best pancake I've ever eaten. So, instead of bristling at the thought of changing a time-tested "perfect" recipe, I listened and I thought about it.

As a result, over the past month or so, I thought about biscuit dough a lot. I've pondered just what I could tweak to change it up to meet Steve's request. The whole time I couldn't help but think, "But... it's tradition! I'm messing with tradition!" As if my mother was going to get wind of the whole kafuffle, come marching out here and wallop me with a wooden spoon. As if the spirit of my Grandma Black would come whooshing in on a cold gust of wind and turn the flour into a dusty spectral dervish.

Change is good. Right? Of course, right.

Last night I roasted a chicken, made smashed potatoes, fresh corn, salad and... a reinvented biscuit. It was really the Black Family Biscuit Recipe with a few minor tweaks. It turned out amazingly good - light, fluffy, just the right mixture of crumb and flake, buttery, warm, mouth-watering, mind melting goodness. Steve was so right.

Sometimes, if we'll listen, if we'll think about it, if we'll try... what's good gets even better.


  1. i used to make my own biscuits all the time, but i have to admit to falling back on Bisquick when life is busy. i don't have one tried and true recipe but a few - my mom didn't make biscuits, so i've been trying out different recipes for years now. If you'd share, i'd like to try yours!
    It's great that you are open to change, and Steve must appreciate that you didn't scoff at the idea of changing the recipe. i love it when something good can be made even better.

  2. I was really pleased with my reaction. There was a time in my life when something like that would have made me feel inadequate and resentful. I love growth!

    I'll type up my recipe and share it with you when I get a chance. If I forget, nag me!


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