By Anita Garner
This whole thing started because there’s buttermilk in the fridge. I can only go so long without a batch of buttermilk biscuits or tart/not sweet cornbread. I need to go make some biscuits today, sturdy ones, the kind I grew up with. I’ll never cast aspersions on the fluffier, grate-a-stick-of-cold-butter kind, but when a biscuit’s also a memory, there will be Crisco inside. The skillet will be preheated with a dollop of bacon grease and the tops will have a slight dent so they can be brushed with more bacon grease.
A few years back I bought a set of biscuit cutters at Sur Le Table in Corte Madera, a store where even a person like me who only cooks occasionally can spend a day just looking through stuff. These babies cut everything from little tea size nibbles to much bigger ones. This makes me the only member of my family I know of who’s ever bought biscuit cutters.
The people who raised me cut biscuits with their favorite glasses or jar rims or a special-sized can with both bottom and top cut off, so the dough wouldn’t stick inside. A tea-sized biscuit from Daddy’s mother in Arkansas would be cut with a Kraft Pimento Cheese jar she kept for that purpose. Mother’s mother migrated to Southern California but stayed with her favorite iced tea glass for shaping.
Our people made all kinds of biscuits. Some of the aunts were celebrated for their risin’ biscuits. Church potlucks featured Angel Biscuits, made with a touch of yeast. At home, our biscuits had work to do. They were a warm breakfast in the morning, then brown paper bags carried them to school stuffed with chunks of ham or dry salt or fried Spam. Put the bag on the cloakroom shelf above the coat pegs and it gets slicker during the morning. Nothing says dinner (our midday meal) will be delicious like serious grease stains on your lunch bag. A dry biscuit was never found in our house.
When I make this batch, I won’t use the cutter for all of them. I’ll save out a piece of dough and hand-form it, leaving it bumpy on top. It’ll be the biggest one, the Cat Head biscuit (named for just what you think, because it’s big as a cat’s head.) Mother sprinkled her Cat Head biscuit with cinnamon sugar. Daddy cut his open at dinner time to sop up something with it. I’ll go for blackberry preserves on mine this afternoon.
Tall glass of iced coffee, dash of cream. This morning’s memory is brought to you by buttermilk in the fridge. It doesn’t take much more than that these days.