Not everyone is a “foodie” like me, but everyone needs to eat. Although not everyone appreciates receiving cooking gadgets, appliances and utensils for gifts on special occasions, most folks welcome the pleasure of eating dishes and delicacies prepared by such devices. And while I realize daydreaming of ingredients and menus for a special meal, or even an ordinary family dinner, isn’t the norm for most of the population, folks do recall those special meals and memories made sitting around a table, eating, chatting and enjoying both the cuisine and the company.
For the next few Fridays, I will be sharing my special food memories. Some will be from my childhood. Others from my college days and traveling around the world to various countries and cultures. As well as, sharing recipes and recollections of meals and menus enjoyed with family and friends over the last several decades. A certain smell, taste, texture or image releases a flood of memories that I will cherish forever. And return to from time to time in an instant.
One such memory is from my grandma, Irene Page Knotts. From my earliest memory, I remember going to grandma’s house across the railroad tracks in the tiny North Louisiana town, where I was raised. Running into the kitchen to always find a plate of biscuits. Usually, they were cold, as I often went to her house after school. Yet, I always knew I would find biscuits. And they tasted just as good cold, as they did hot.
“MawMaw,” as we called her, was a simple cook; however,one thing she made, which was simply the best, was biscuits. No one has ever been able to recreate her amazing biscuits. How’d she do it?
Well, it all started with the flour. Grandma kept her flour in a enormous mustard-yellow tin bucket, which was covered with a metal lid, underneath the sink. (I don’t think this was a “secret.” It just so happened, this cupboard was the only one large enough to house the tin bucket.) Inside the bucket was a sea foam green bowl, well over 20 years old, as it was wearing thin. The bowl remained in the tin at all times, unless MawMaw was making biscuits, which happened nearly every morning of her life.
She never measured or fussed over specifics. After having made biscuits so many times, she knew exactly what to do each time she pulled the bowl out of the bucket. I remember watching her often, just to see if I could recreate her method. She would take a bit of flour (self-rising is what she always used), make a well in the middle and then, she would pour a bit of oil and water into the well, stirring just enough to combine the ingredients.
When all the ingredients were mixed together, she would take spoonfuls of the dough into her floured hands and shape it into a biscuit, dusting with flour that she reserved on another plate. Always, she would place the biscuits into a very hot, oiled cast iron skillet. Just like she did when making cornbread, while mixing the biscuit ingredients, she would heat the oil in the cast iron skillet, as the oven was preheating. Taking it out just in time to place the biscuits into it! This always allowed the biscuits to be slightly crunchy around the edges. Delicious!
I often wondered (and still do), if baking the biscuits in a gas oven was her trick. Not sure, but it seems to have helped. Another thing I learned from watching her bake this biscuits hundreds of times, is that she would not bake them until they were brown. Instead, she would take the biscuits out of the oven just as they were “done” in the middle, placing them in the broiler underneath, which was a separate drawer. They would remain in the broiler until golden brown.
Then, the fun began. I can STILL envision the steam rising from these delicious creations, hot from the oven. Not to mention smell them and taste them, as if I was eating one right now. AMAZING!
If I was eating a cold biscuit, I’d just grab one off of the plate, which was always covered with a metal lid, and place on the side of her kitchen table. Sometime, if I was lucky, there would be a piece of salt pork from that morning’s breakfast, too.
Speaking of salt pork. If I was lucky enough to stay the night at MawMaw’s and wake up to freshly baked biscuits, I had a special way of eating the golden, delicious gems! I would take one from the pan, straight from the oven. I always chose an “edge” biscuit, so as to get the crispy texture, surrounding the soft center. Then, I would slice it in half and add a piece of salt pork. Before biting into this yumminess, there was one last addition. Along with freshly baked biscuits and fried salt pork, you would always find canned sliced peaches in a yellow-orange Tupperware bowl on Grandma’s table. And she always left the peach syrup, too. This was THE BEST.
After placing the salt pork onto one side of the biscuit, I’d spoon a bit of the peach syrup on top and close it up. At this point my taste buds were watering. It seems simple, and it is. But this has to be one of the best concoctions I have ever tasted. The biscuit alone was perfection, but adding the crisp, saltiness of the pork, along with the sweet syrup infused with peaches was utterly amazing.
For this reason, you will never find me ordering biscuits at any restaurant. Sure, I have in the past, but I finally learned my lesson. I am never pleased, never satisfied and most often disappointed. No one ever has, or ever will, make a delicious biscuit like MawMaw.
Sweet memories with my MawMaw. The only thing I regret is that she never met my husband, or my kids, and they never were able to hear her infectious laugh, or taste her delectable biscuits. So, I keep trying to recreate them, but never quiet get there. The memories remain, and can never be taken away.