Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
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Online Since 1999
||Pass the Biscuits....
Pass the Biscuits
was just “knee-high to a grasshopper” when mama took pity on me and allowed
me to get into the dough she was kneading. Being a curious child, I hung around
under mama’s feet while she was trying to cook, watching her make the bread.
Biscuits are a big part of southern culture and something every southern woman
knew how to make. Biscuits were served with every meal. Bread was a staple that
filled empty tummies if there was not quite enough of everything else.
Biscuits are made with baking powder for leavening. We didn’t know what yeast
was. Mama called bread from the store “light bread,” and it was used for
sandwiches. Nobody in their right mind would serve light bread with a meal. It
would be bad manners.
Besides, a woman’s ability to cook was often measured by her ability to turn
out a pan of good biscuits.
Mama decided that I might as well be useful since I was hanging around anyhow. I
was so young that I had to have a stepping stool to stand on so I could reach
the counter of the cupboard where the biscuit making was done.
Flour was stored in a bin with a sifter on the bottom that was inside the
cupboard. The brown crockery bread bowl was also kept there, along with the
biscuit cloth, rolling pen, and biscuit cutter. I can’t remember us ever
having a real biscuit cutter. Mama used a drinking glass.
At biscuit making time, flour was sifted into the bowl and then hollowed out in
the middle with the back of your hand. Lard was scooped up in your hand.
Nobody measured. You just knew how much was about the right amount. The
shortening was cut into the flour by squishing it between fingers, no pastry cutter in mama’s kitchen.
The amount of baking power remains forever a mystery as it was already in the
“self-rising” flour. However, a small amount of baking soda was usually
added, just about enough to fill the crook of your little finger. Then
buttermilk was added, enough to fill the well in the flour. It was mixed until
dough was formed. The flour that remained in the bowl was saved until next time.
The flour-saturated cloth was unfolded, and the dough removed to the cloth. The
dough was kneaded enough to be sure ingredients were mixed well. It was then
patted flat and rolled with the big flour covered rolling pen until it was the
right thickness for biscuits.
Now, some folks just pinched off enough dough for a biscuit and placed in on the
greased baking sheet for "cat-head" biscuits. Mama was fancy, so she
used a water glass to cut out biscuits. The left-over dough could be reworked to
cut a second batch, but you had to be careful about handling it or the biscuits
would be tough.
Before long I knew the entire process, from sifting the flour to
folding up the cloth when I was done. I even knew how to rub my hands together
with flour to remove the sticky dough in tiny crumbly rolls. There was nothing
as comforting as the smell of homemade biscuits baking in the oven, or as
pleasing to the cook as hearing daddy say, “Pass the biscuits.”
I don’t make biscuits anymore. The cupboard with the sifter has been gone
forever and only remains somewhere in the memories in the back of my mind. I
don’t keep a bowl of flour in the kitchen for biscuits. Bread comes from the
store. But I still know just how much lard to add, just how much baking power to
use, and how much milk to add to make the dough come out right.
I’m a southern woman. I learned to make homemade biscuits without a recipe
when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I’ll never forget.
Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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