However, for the next 40 days and 40 nights, I’ve decided to give up something during Lent that’s a lifelong staple in my life — the biscuit. When it comes to biscuits, I’ve been what my Aunt Edith Yates of Ranburne, Alab., has described as “spoiled rotten.”
My mother always made homemade biscuits from scratch. Within minutes of grabbing the White Lily flour and Crisco from her kitchen cabinets, my mother could “whip up” a batch of biscuits faster than most people can put a store-bought canned biscuit on a pan.
When I first asked my mother how she made biscuits, she didn’t say the words flour, a bowl or buttermilk.
“I make them with love,” she replied.
And she did. For almost 40 years, she made a pan of biscuits almost every single morning. I never heard her complain. My brothers and I always had friends spend the night on the weekends and we never had to extend an invitation. They invited themselves because they knew my mother would cook them biscuits.
Thankfully, biscuits continue to serve as a staple on the Southern breakfast table. Almost every fast-food restaurant cooks them, but I’m partial to our locally owned establishments who still make them from scratch. My mother believed canned biscuits weren’t real biscuits.
“If you can read, you can cook,” my mother always preached to us.
The problem with her advice is she never wrote down her recipe. Furthermore, how do you teach someone to master cooking a fluffy biscuit when the true skill can’t be expressed in words? My mother’s biscuit dough was more of a craft than art. On second thought, maybe it was more art than craft. Either way, it’s tough to duplicate my mother’s biscuits.
Biscuits even played an important role in my destiny. Most people who relocate to the South are surprised to learn we can take salmon out of a can, bread it and fry it. After my wife Ali and I started dating, her mother Lynde Turner invited us to dinner. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized we were having salmon paired with biscuits, English peas and mashed potatoes.
I wanted to ask her mother if I could propose to her daughter after my first bite, but I decided to see what other things her mother paired with biscuits for future meals before asking for her daughter’s hand in marriage. Furthermore, it didn’t take long after eating my wife Ali’s biscuits paired with sausage, bacon, country ham, roast beef, cubed steak and fried chicken that I realized there was something divine occurring.
I’m thankful for biscuits. They have helped me start my mornings and have sometimes even soothed my evenings for years. Just 12 hours after my son Will was killed last October, I heard a knock on our door as the sun peeked through the clouds. My friend Valerie Ayers appeared at the door with homemade biscuits. It was the first thing I ate after the tragedy. Even in the midst of the most horrific time of my life, a biscuit brought me comfort.
After I learned the skill of making biscuits, I quit making them a few years later because I could never make them taste like my mother’s. Alzheimer’s has now robbed her ability to prepare the things she once performed daily without ever looking at a recipe. So maybe I need to try once again to cook her biscuits. Maybe I should go see Aunt Edith and perfect my skill. Once I make biscuits the right way, I’m going to make a trip. I’m going to take one to Momma.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com.