While standing in my kitchen with beautiful morning light coming through the windows,thinking about making buscuits. It’s early, not too early to enjoy the sunshine, but early enough that my husband and two sons are not yet moving around. The house is quiet and I’m making biscuits… from scratch and by hand. As I gather my tools… my biscuit-making bowl (no other bowl will do), the perfect-sized big metal spoon, and metal pan (I save the cast iron for cornbread)… I think of the many, many biscuits that have been made by my family’s hands.
I still love my Mother’s biscuits best. Doesn’t everyone? I do not know her secret for making the lightest fluffiest biscuits ever. She doesn’t roll them out and doesn’t cut them with a biscuit cutter, yet they seem to be a perfect uniform size… and delicious! Mom’s biscuits always have touch of flour left on top after baking.
My Daddy does NOT think my Mom makes the best biscuits ever. He, of course, likes the way Mamaw (his Mother) made them. Mamaw’s biscuits were flat. Very, very flat. Because a girl always wants to please her Daddy, I thought I would make the biscuits he loves when he helped us build our dream home.
Every weekend morning, Daddy would show up at 7am; he and Roger would work until 4pm or until they wore out (whichever came first). My biggest contribution was breakfast every morning and lunch promptly at noon, both served under the shade tree in the yard. It took awhile, but I mastered the art of flat biscuits before they got that house built. And learning to make those biscuits taught me something about a truly remarkable lady.
To make biscuits the way my Daddy likes them, I had to make my batter very thin. While dropping my thin batter for very flat biscuits the first time, I realized I would need a bigger pan (and, of course, less batter) next time. This batter was making more biscuits than my usual batch. Of course! It dawned on my why Mamaw’s biscuits were flat! My Daddy had seven brothers and sisters. And if that wasn’t enough there were always friends and cousins staying over or even living there for awhile. Mamaw’s biscuits were flat because she had a lot of mouths to feed, and my Daddy still likes them that way because that is how his Mama made them.
I finally mastered the fine art of biscuit-making after watching my Granny Sis mix a batch in her home in Shelby, Alabama. At one time, Granny Sis was just plain “Granny.” Then when I had my first son (my parent’s first grandchild), my Mom became “Granny.” It quickly became confusing to have two Grannies. So, because my grandmother had always been called Sis by her family, she became Granny Sis. It was many years before I realized that “Granny Rice” (My Mama’s Granny) was, most likely, simply “Granny” at one time before so many others came after her. But, back to the biscuits…
I had been married a number of years and had fumbled through many pans of “not so great biscuits” (my husband SWORE that he really did like the canned kind!). Then one day we drove over to visit Granny Sis. Standing in her tiny, little kitchen just a few feet off Lay Lake, I watched her make a batch of biscuits. Let me tell you, Granny Sis is small, but she can surely beat a batch of biscuits. I was in awe of how she whipped that batter, and I made a very serious mental note of exactly how the batter looked when she stopped beating and began dropping the biscuits into hot oil in the pan.
Once home, I tried again to make a good (or at least passable) biscuit. I used the same ingredients I had always used. I used the same utensils I had always used. But this time I knew a secret… I knew what the batter should look like before you stop beating. So, I took my spoon and started beating. After just a little bit, I had more respect for Granny Sis. Man, beating a biscuit by hand takes a lot of energy. When the batter looked just like I remembered, I dropped it by tablespoons into the hot oil in the pan, placed the pan in the preheated oven and held my breath. It didn’t take long to realize they were rising and rounding off beautifully. When I took my biscuits out of the oven, they smelled delicious. I broke one and saw that the inside was nice and soft while the outside was buttery and crunchy. I did it. I finally made a good biscuit.
Over the years I’ve fine-tuned my biscuits into my own style. I now have a certain bowl and a certain spoon that I always use. I cook them in the same pan every time and I have my favorite brand-name ingredients.
I don’t make biscuits just like Mama or Mamaw or Granny Sis or Granny Rice. But, as my sons come into the kitchen lured by the smell of bacon and eggs and grits and, of course, biscuits hot out of the oven, I realize that they will believe that’s the way a biscuit should be… simply because, “That’s the way Mom made them.” And that makes me smile!
Originally posted: April 2005