Tag Archives: food

Biscuit Guilt: Modern Southern Motherhood

My kids love biscuits for breakfast. They take a while, so we only have hot biscuits on weekends. Saturday morning, I realized that every time I fix biscuits for them, I get a side of guilt. It’s all part of being a mom in the modern South.

Before we get too deep into the story, I should share my recipe. Feel free to pin it:

Modern southern biscuits

Family biscuit recipe since 2004.

The buttermilk is the secret. Pro tip: use the kitchen scissors to open the bag. Keep your sewing scissors hidden from the children and Gennaro.

I got this recipe from my father, who knew how to make fresh biscuits. He also had the good sense to know that these frozen biscuits were 92% as good as homemade and they saved dirtying up dishes. They’re always ready to pop in the oven and you can make four if four is all you need.

But why the guilt when frozen biscuits make so much sense? My modern southern motherhood guilt stems from the fact that my Grandmama Irene kept a plate of cold biscuits on her kitchen table always. ALWAYS. Whatever she and Pop and Aunt Eula didn’t eat hot at breakfast went onto a plate to cool then they were covered with the lid of an old aluminum pot. Nobody had an excuse to be hungry at Grandmama’s house because you could always fix you a biscuit. She even kept the preserves and jelly right there next to them on the plastic tablecloth that covered up the good tablecloth.

I can see Grandmama Irene making biscuits. She took out the wooden biscuit bowl, which was never washed with soap, just scraped out good after each batch. A five pound bag of White Lily self-rising flour. A blue can of Crisco with the snap on lid. A half-gallon of buttermilk from the fridge door. Cut in the Crisco, make a well for the buttermilk, mix it together with fingers that have never thumbed through a cookbook for a biscuit recipe. Knowing how to make biscuits came down like family stories–watching the rhythm of her hands, hearing the scratch of the biscuit cutter against the side of the wooden bowl, smelling the sharp tang of buttermilk, that same gentle bite that you’d taste in the biscuit hot out of the oven. A little sharp to balance the sweet preserves.

She rolled her biscuits on a Tupperware pastry sheet, the white one with the red circles for measuring pie crusts. A wooden rolling pin dusted with flour. Then the tiny biscuit cutter–Grandmama’s biscuits are about an inch across, instead of the typical, sausage patty sized biscuits. She lined them up on a shiny greased baking pan while the oven ticked to the right temperature.

The next generation carried on the biscuit ritual, but with a little bit of a nod to busier times. My mom worked full-time but she made scratch biscuits too. Instead of rolled and cut biscuits, she made drop biscuits. Faster and less mess. The flavor is the same, but instead of uniform circles, her biscuits went more oblong, echoing the shape of the spoon that had dropped the dough onto the baking sheet. The tops of those biscuits peaked and rippled, not smooth and flat like her mama’s biscuits. In our house, biscuits were already becoming a dinner time or weekend thing because mornings were for getting to work and school.

I’m stuck in a strange middle land of the past and the present–on the one hand, I don’t make scratch biscuits like DeeAnn or Beth or Saralynn do, daughters of my generation who learned from their mothers. On the other hand, I also DO NOT use whop biscuits (that’s those godawful biscuits in a can that you have to whop on the side of the counter to open. As Jerry Clower used to say, that WHOP is the sound of a Southern husband’s heart breaking.) So I’m stuck in between whop biscuits and scratch biscuits and that is right where you find frozen buttermilk biscuits.

The guilt, though. Will my kids lose all connection to their floury shortening buttermilk heritage? Will my kids take one more step and–gasp!–feed their kids whop biscuits? THOSE ARE MY (theoretical) GRANDCHILDREN.

The children of every culture walk this line away from the past. We all cling to some recipe from our ancestors. Donaley spends Sundays making Dominican food for her family. Thien-Kim flies home from her mama’s house with a suitcase full of spring rolls. Luvvie pines for her mama’s jollof rice when she’s traveling. Beth makes biscuits in the south of France when she’s missing her granny. Martina makes sauerkraut like her mama taught. Ginger cooks red beans and rice on Monday because that’s laundry day, or it used to be before we all had a washing machine and a dryer in the house.

Yes. I am different from the women who came before me. I don’t make biscuits from scratch. I could if I chose to, but I don’t choose to. At least I don’t today. There will be a day soon from now when I wake up wanting to make biscuits. The recipe and the rhythm will be there in my DNA. It can’t not be there.

But for today, I’m going to put down the guilt. While the frozen biscuits were in the oven, my daughter sat down next to me to show me what she was doing on her laptop. She was coding in Scratch. She dragged an orange cat to the center of the screen then added another version with his legs in a different position. She made him say “Hello there!” She flipped him sideways and it looked like he was swimming, so she drew air bubbles. She changed the line width and color to add a tiny white arc on each gray bubble–voila. We talked about animation and if/then statements and loops and timing. All while the smell of hot biscuits whispered from the kitchen. For her, Saturday mornings aren’t about watching cartoons. They’re for creating.

14095867_10208856228636038_1028251376770498712_n

And that feeds her spirit and her soul and her future.

Our kids are growing up differently and that’s not so bad. In our house, Sunday morning are for pancakes. Daddy’s in charge of pancakes. Daddy lets you sit on the counter in your underwear and mix in food coloring because blue is your favorite. And Daddy gets you to count how many pancakes will fit on the griddle. He makes little ones and big ones. Daddy teaches you to watch for the bubbles and when there are enough bubbles, how to flip the pancake. Maybe that’s what seeps into your DNA. Maybe that’s the recipe that keeps us connected to each other. The time together, not the taste.

14102626_10208856227116000_7251470102207220882_n

Coming Back to My Senses

G caught me flapping my hands and muttering to myself this morning so he asked what was up.

“Carlos needs to get dressed, Vivi’s lunchbox is missing, I need to get the house organized because the cleaning lady is coming today, oh and the guys are coming to stain the deck, so Huck needs to be cooped up in the basement, which reminds me the pool is turning green but I don’t have time to take a water sample in at lunch today because I have an all-day class and we are out of groceries.”

G went back to getting dressed. I added “carry around a big load of resentment” to the list. Then, like most every other day, I got all that taken care of and managed to get myself ready for work.

By 3:30 p.m., I was in the office restroom crying into a paper towel and trying not to make any noise. This time of the day, this time of the week, I’m getting overwhelmed with feelings. Orlando. Senate filibuster. Cheeto Jesus. Father’s Day.

Father’s Day. At lunch, a friend had asked, “What are y’all doing for Father’s Day?” and before I could brace myself, I thought, “Nothing–I don’t have a father anymore.”

By 5:00 p.m., I was sitting in my car trying to remember what I did last Father’s Day for Daddy and all I could be sure of was that it wasn’t enough.

Back at home, there was the green pool and the deck guys who never showed and the groceries to unpack and the and and the and and the and.

I stood at the kitchen sink trying not to cry while getting dinner together. I couldn’t find one happy thought to hold on to, not one safe and still place to let my heart rest.

I rinsed the potatoes that came in the produce share from Collective Harvest. I was reminded of the first time I watched Daddy dig up potatoes in his garden. I’d never seen them growing and was delighted by how they hung down in a crowd from the plant that he’d lifted out of the soil with a wide-toothed hay fork.

13428481_10208264727808887_6004801013280323778_n

 

I pulled from the block the little paring knife that Daddy and Big Gay gave me for Christmas that year after Fartbuster and I split up. I had asked for a sky diving certificate or some good knives. They decided the knives were less dangerous. I carefully cut into the small purple potatoes without using a cutting board, the way I had been taught. The jeweled inside of each potato reminded me of a fig. I’ve never been one for figs, but that reminded me of Daddy laughing about how Grandmama Eunice loved figs so much that she would stop the car and climb over a three-strand barbed wire fence if she came across a fig tree standing in a pasture. It wasn’t stealing, because that fig tree had to have been planted by some farm family long ago. Even if the house just a memory, the fig tree deserved to be loved and Grandmama Eunice wasn’t about to let figs be wasted on cows.

13407235_10208264738769161_7477376434096046777_n

 

With the purple potatoes cooking in a little oil, I turned to snapping two handfuls of green beans. The texture of fresh green beans takes me right back to being a kid with an afternoon’s worth of beans to snap or purple hull peas to shell or corn to shuck. We had BIG gardens. The scratchy green surface of the bean, like a kitten’s tongue. The rewarding crisp ripeness of some and the floppy meh of others. The distinctive SNAP. The summer smell. The clatter as the pieces fall back into the collander and dinner grows step by step. When we were kids, the worst possible thing to hear was “Y’all get in the car–we’re going to the garden.” Now I ache for a peck basket and a row of green beans to work my way down.

 

13407045_10208264738929165_1371757925874955777_n

 

A pretty pint of blueberries and the rest of the strawberries from the fridge. I scoop a handful of the blueberries gently into my fingers and pour them into my mouth. Most of them perfectly sweet, but always that bitter one. Farm fresh blueberries take me back to a late June trip to Maine with Richard. We ate breakfast on the hill overlooking Bar Harbor. He ate a cinnamon roll as big as his head (I have the photo to prove it) and I devoured a blueberry muffin made with the biggest blueberries I had ever seen. We took our traditional “feet picture” with the sailboats and bay in the background. That photo turned out to be the last one of a long series. Memories. Most of them perfectly sweet, but always that bitter one. I ate another handful of blueberries then stirred the supper.

I can’t say I suddenly felt happy at that moment and all was right, but I felt more solid. When my brain is racing far ahead and my heart is twisted and panting with the struggle to keep up, I have to come back to my senses. Sight. Touch. Sound. Smell. Taste. Memory.

Sunday Sweetness–Baby Cakes

“Baby Cakes”–that’s what my nephew used to call cupcakes.  If you’d like to add a touch of sweetness to your Sunday, click this little cupcake to read my story, “Cupcake Moms.”  Enjoy!

 
cupcake-279523_640

Daddy Went to the Store

daddy storeThe baby has been sick for a couple of days so I’m behind on the grocery shopping.  G came home tonight and we decided that he would run to Kroger for some sandwiches and essentials.  I requested much-needed Diet Coke and an Italian sandwich.  He wrote those in a list and added milk, fruit and something for breakfast.  Vivi requested a treat, “something Halloween but not pumpkin flavor.”  (That’s my girl!)

Here’s what he brought home an hour later:

12 pack of Diet Coke
bottle of wine (for Mama, because the man is no fool)
2 bags of yogurt berry rice cakes
2 jars of peanut butter
NutriGrain bars
cornichons
stuffed grape leaves
Dalmatian fig preserves
brie
pepper crackers
gallon of milk
one Boar’s Head Authentic Italian hoagie
2 quarts of strawberries
1 pint of blackberries
8 green bananas
3 cans of Axe body spray
2 tubes of Old Spice deodorant
razor blades
dozen chocolate chip cookies
dozen glow in the dark cupcakes with 100% unnatural ingredients
 
TOTAL:  $124.75 (For dinner, he and I had to split the sandwich and feed Vivi an old can of chicken noodle soup.  But we did discover that she likes cornichons.)

Hey, it’s his money–he can blow it on blackberries in October if he chooses to.  He did a kind thing, bringing treats for all of us.  

And the whole episode reminded me of the utter delight I felt as a kid when Daddy went to the grocery store.  Back then, my dad worked six days a week as a country veterinarian.  Sometimes on Saturday, he’d swing by O’Neal’s Grocery on the way home at lunch.  He came in the yellow front door with a wooden case of RC Colas clinking against each other.  A plump loaf of Sunbeam bread and a stack of fresh-sliced baloney (not bologna, BALONEY) to fry up for sandwiches with bright yellow mustard.  Bags of salty potato chips and some Mayfield chocolate almond ice cream getting soft on the top from the 7 mile drive.  


Best of all in my young eyes, he’d even bring a People magazine with Three’s Company or Mork and Mindy on the cover.  Oh, bliss on a Saturday afternoon.   A cold RC.  A belly full of fried baloney sandwiches.  Greasy potato chip fingertips rubbing the ink off the corner of shiny magazine pages as I read and read and read.  We didn’t live on this kind of food and we didn’t live for this kind of food, but it sure did perk up a same old Saturday back in the day.  


So I’ll be the one who goes to the grocery store and buys things in season and whole grains and fresh fresh fresh.  G can be the one who brings home the glow in the dark cupcakes.  That’s what daddies do.