Saturday, November 1, 2008

Food memories

I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, but that time was certainly powerful. They lived a Southern farm life in the outskirts of Durham, keeping with them the patterns of childhood and adapting them to the city life they had to take on during the Depression. There was a large garden, much bigger than their little bungalow, to the side of the house on a sun-baked hill. My grandmother found local sources for molasses, fatback, lard, and other staples. They hunted wild game for food and, for a long time they had chickens, until a grocery store finally opened a mile down the road.

I was fascinated by their lifestyle. I, a child of the Air Force move-every-two-years life, couldn't imagine living in one place for years on end, let alone near the extended family that had settled in the Bethesda area of Durham. They were by no means the salt of the earth, however: it turns out the family  made more bad choices than good ones, with my grandmother deftly ignoring or denying the shenanigans of her progeny.

During the small bits of time I had with my grandmother, she taught me a lifetime of skills: how to make perfect buttermilk biscuits and pecan pie,  sew basic hems and repair tears and replace missing buttons, crochet, harvest beans and peas, and more. She filled a need I didn't understand to work with my hands and tend to home.

This morning the tweens are sleeping off the aftereffects of too much candy and long jogs from one street to the next. The teen is powersleeping his exhaustion away (nightly homework lasting until midnight takes a toll). Halloween started with a block party hosted by the Neels and ended with a quiet ramble down the street with AG and her friend. 

I decided it was a good morning for biscuits. So I took out my grandmother's wood bread bowl, mixed the ingredients, and the house is now filled with a luscious, buttermilky scent that fills me with contentment.


Buttermilk Biscuits
6 cups self-rising flour 
1/2 to 3/4 cups shortening 
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Mix and knead until dough is slightly sticky. Powder hands with flour and shape dough into 2" diameter biscuits. (My grandmother never used a biscuit cutter - her biscuits were always rolled and flattened by hand.) 
Bake at 425 degrees for about 15-18 minutes. Check carefully - don't over-bake. The ideal color is a light golden brown.
Serve with butter, molasses, bacon, eggs, cheese - a buffet of yummy fillings.

1 comment:

  1. Cool story bro.

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