There are few things more satisfying than scanning a dinner table or looking across my kitchen counter to see the faces of people I love. Even when it includes those oddball characters no one quite knows what to do with (you know who you are).
You know the ones. They have a real knack for artfully–almost poetically–saying exactly the wrong thing.
Yeah, even them. Maybe especially them.
In fact, those are the very people who usually make things more interesting. Like the other night when one of my son’s friends went off on a rant about anti-depressants. He said, “Not to be graphic” (so we braced ourselves), and then he went on to describe scientifically (and graphically) why antidepressants take all the umph out of orgasms.
Really? Hmm. Didn’t know that. “Coffee anyone?”
Or there was the recent dinner when my nephew was home from college with two friends. I overheard one family member talking about the politics of homosexuality with one of the friends. (To his credit, the young man maintained a remarkable poker face. Didn’t even flinch.)
I sat for a moment that night taking it all in. I scanned the table, watching everyone joke and gesticulate, while they stuffed faces full with pizza and somehow still managed to share stories, tall tales, gross exaggerations, good-natured ribbing, and belly laughs—all without bringing soda up their noses.
Somehow it was all so….glorious. So wonderfully and beautifully imperfect. No matter what is being served or where, if I can look across a table or a room into the eyes of someone I love, it is all so very, very good.
The trick to making good biscuits is to handle the dough tenderly. You just knead it for a minute, very softly, like patting a baby’s butt. I can just picture Nanny’s hands now—they were not the hands of a Southern belle. But then again, this was not the South of the debutantes. Hers were hands that had worked, snapped beans, and sewn a flock of feed sack dresses. These were not hands that held a dance card at the cotillion.
She always had a wooden bowl on her kitchen counter with a bit of flour in the bottom and the sifter resting on top. The bowl was always ready because biscuits were a daily affair. She would sift a small hill of flour into the center of the bowl and then work in the fat with her hands. Using her fist, she’d make a well in the center, and in it she’d pour buttermilk–no measuring, of course. She’d slowly pull the flour into the milk, working quickly until the dough was as soft as an old woman’s cheeks. She’d sift a little flour out on the counter top, gently work the dough into a ball, which she’d roll out quickly with her rolling pin. Then she’d cut out the biscuits, quickly taking up the scraps to form another ball, until there was only enough scraps to make two little baby biscuits. Those were just for me and my sister, Pam.
I got stuck trying to recall the details of how my Nanny made biscuits. She died when I was fourteen, so my memories of her are limited, but somehow her biscuit making routine stands out. In an effort to recall details, it occurred to me that some smart Southern soul might have had the foresight to video the biscuit making ritual for posterity. Lo and behold…several people did just that. This one reminded me so much of my grandmother.
So, anyone out there have their own secrets for the perfect biscuits?
© 2010 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved. (Video not included in this copyright notice.)