2.18.2020 – simple pleasures

simple pleasures
what does innocence smell like
bake those biscuits brown

Sometime in my life a romance with biscuits began.

Maybe it was just the name of Paul Bunyan’s head cook, Hot Biscuit Slim (and the dessert cook, Cream Puff Fatty) that got me going.

Maybe it was the reoccurring theme of biscuits and gravy, biscuits and RED EYE gravy on the Beverly Hillbillies.

Maybe it was Atticus Finch calling to Jem, “Son, why don’t you come down out of there now and have your breakfast. Calpurnia has a good one. Hot biscuits.”

Maybe it was reading how Mrs. Truman was told they didn’t serve biscuits at the White House.

At least they didn’t until Mrs. Truman showed up and gave the kitchen hell over store-bought cold dinner rolls and hot biscuits turned up for the President’s breakfast.

In my brain somewhere is a memory of coming home from a summer trip in Northern Southern Michigan or was it upper – lower Michigan, the Sleeping Bear area.

My Dad spotted a Kentucky Fried Chicken and pulled over.

Taking the family out to eat must have been a bit of gut check for my Dad, what with wife and nine or ten kids and most likely a cousin or two for the fun of it.

Seems like there was a Lower along this trip.

We got buckets of chicken and boxes of biscuits and sat out on picnic tables on a summer night.

The biscuits came with packets of honey.

I ate about a dozen biscuits.

Okay, not a dozen, but I know I took more than I should have.

And so it started.

I wanted to learn to bake biscuits.

Not just any biscuits, but the biscuits that were the stuff of culliary legend.

The food stuff that built a country.

My Mom let me try Bisquick first and we moved on to Pillsbury biscuits in a cardboard tube.

Good but not good enough to create legend.

I moved on to baking powder and cooking oil and got pretty good making a biscuit I really liked.

One summer, before going back to school in Ann Arbor, I wanted to bring the taste of summer with me.

Like Grandma in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury who would be “drawn to the cellar of winter for a June adventure”, I wanted something that might be a sudden patch light in the Michigan snow.

So I learned how to make blueberry jam.

Blueberries that had grown up along the shore of Lake Michigan and sucked in sunshine until they were ready to burst.

That jam and my biscuits were my secret weapon that winter.

Loved my biscuits but I didn’t mind when my friend Salle stopped by with a loaf a bread.

She said she saw the bread through a bakery window as it came of the oven and all she could think of was my jam.

We ate the whole loaf and a jar of jam.

My body misses those days, but I digress.

My biscuits were good … but not (yet) great.

I kept studying the cookbooks and came away with a missing ingredient.

Lard.

Remember lard?

When Cousin Vinnie goes into the diner and the menu lists, BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER and orders breakfast, the cook starts by dropping a cup of lard onto the grill.

Lard and a hot, hot oven.

Now my biscuits were something.

Brown, crunchy, soft, flakey all at the same time.

Biscuits and gravy.

Sausage gravy.

Ham gravy.

White pepper gravy.

CHICKEN GRAVY.

I get hungry in an awful bad way just thinking about it.

For Christmas my son gave me a cast iron skillet.

I had been looking at it for a couple for weeks.

Thinking this was just the thing for biscuits.

Finally got around to trying it.

I am near 60 years old.

After years of trying I have it.

A simple recipe.

A simple skillet.

A simple pleasure.

And the smell of the biscuits baking.

Down south there was a comedian named Jerry Clower.

Some of his stuff is just poetry as comedy.

But the sound of his voice telling stories of the south is a thing of near mythology.

I came across an interview with him done by Mississippi Public Radio when he was asked what was his fondest memory of growing up.

He talked about a day where you had to work in the fields but it rained.

It rained and so you couldn’t work.

You would sit on the front porch, watch the rain and smell the biscuits cooking.

Smell the biscuits cooking.

Biscuits.

A simple innocent pleasure.

Biscuits cooking.

The smell of innocence.

Boil em cabbage down
Bake em biscuits brown
The only song that i can sing is
Boil em cabbage down

Someone asked, all this and no recipe?

Whups.

2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons of baking power
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of lard

Cut the lard into the dry ingedients

Add 1 cup of milk and knead into a dough
Flatten and cut out biscuits with a glass or a jar or a biscuit cutter
Place tight together so they raise in an ungreased iron skillet or baking pan
Bake in a hot 450 degree oven until brown (about 20 minutes)

Smell those biscuits baking and relax

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