It had been years since I made biscuits. The last time was when my mother-in-law visited several years ago, and my homemade biscuits were the only thing she requested.
Having presumptive celiac and a wheat sensitivity made me beg off any kind of bread years ago, but when Granny passed away, the only food that gave me solace was biscuits, albeit canned ones, even though I knew Granny was seething over my sacrilege.
I made those canned biscuits and didn’t care how bad I hurt for days afterward; their smell carried me back to a simpler, happier time in life.
I’ve thought about Granny a lot over the last few weeks. It doesn’t help that she passed away in March. As we’ve dealt with all of these changes, I have yearned for her insight and wisdom more than ever. I almost know what she would say about things, but I sure wish I had her here to tell me it will be OK. To hear her speak faith into the situation or remind me to focus on what was in front of me, instead of worrying about the future.
A friend had made some homemade biscuits with tomato gravy, eggs and grits one morning and shared a photo on Facebook. Granny would have been impressed, even if she never had made tomato gravy herself. It made me realize, it had been so long since I had made biscuits, my child probably didn’t remember them.
“I’d eat that every morning if I had gravy with it,” he said when I showed him the photo.
“I can make some gravy,” I said.
“Not the brown gravy,” Cole said. “The white gravy — the good gravy.”
I was in trouble. I didn’t know how to make the good, white gravy. The next morning, I needed to get groceries for our self-isolation. I thought of what Granny would get. I can remember walking the aisles at the Piggly Wiggly with her and thinking she had the most boring grocery list known to man.
Two kinds of flour — self-rising and all-purpose, both White Lily, as she was particular about her flour — Crisco, sugar, baking soda, eggs, milk.
“What’s that good for?” I’d ask, looking for a box of Little Debbie among her provisions and finding none.
“It’s good for whatever I want it to be,” she would say.
She’d add a roast, a whole chicken cut up, and fatback to her buggy. I’d crinkle my nose.
“You gonna freeze that way,” she’d warn.
“That chicken looks gross,” I’d say.
“You ain’t gonna think it looks gross when I fry it up,” she’d reply.
There were no store-made cakes or pies; she had, as my own child would describe it, ingredients only and nothing good to eat. Yet, she could and often would stretch those items into weeks of meals and make them last.
I thought of what she would get when I was doing my own shopping during all this uncertainty. What would Granny get as staples?
I put self-rising flour, a small can of Crisco, and some other ingredients in my buggy. Things I think she would have approved of, even if it wasn’t White Lily flour. I even got a mix to make the good, white gravy my child wanted. The next morning, I sat out my bowl and the little can of Crisco on the counter. Memories of being in the kitchen with Granny flooded over me.
“Sift your flour,” she would say. “You want your flour soft and fluffy.”
I couldn’t find my sifter. Had it been thrown away? I improvised by using my whisk on the flour.
“Now make your well in the middle,” I could hear her instructions clearly.
I added the Crisco to the little valley I had made in the bowl.
Milk — I needed milk. I didn’t have any, so I used some half and half.
“You need to get your hands in the dough,” she said.
I was just as squeamish now as I was the first time I made biscuits on my own over 40 years ago. The feeling of the dough squishing between my fingers was not one I enjoyed.
“Don’t forget the cold water, you’ll need to add a cup to your dough.”
I added the water, feeling the mixture thin under my fingers.
“Flour your hands before you pat them out.”
After I rinsed my hands off, I poured some more flour in a bowl and dusted my hands to keep the bread from sticking as I patted out biscuits.
Granny never used a biscuit cutter for some reason, nor did she roll them out and cut them, instead she hand patted rows of uniform biscuits.
I anxiously scrambled eggs and made grits and gravy while they were baking, worried the biscuits wouldn’t look or taste right. They weren’t as pretty as my previous biscuits had been, and I personally didn’t think they tasted as good either. My child and husband weren’t as picky though, and said they enjoyed them immensely.
“There’s always the next batch. Sometimes, it takes time to get the hang of something. Remember what you did right and what you need to fix next time.”
I could hear Granny’s wisdom washing over me, and suddenly, I felt a huge sense of comfort.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.