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Sunday, April 1, 2012

"No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers." ~ Laurie Colwin

If I had a dime for every time someone said, “I use the same recipe Judy did and it never comes out the same”...  I watched Mama make biscuits a hundred times and I would ask her to just write it down. She used to ask me how was she supposed to write down something she “just did”? “Just Watch," she would say. I watched as she added flour to Grandmama Bradham’s “biscuit bowl”(an old aluminum bowl that looked like Charlie got after it with a hammer). She made a “well” in the center of the flour, poured in some milk and then added a generous hand-full of shortening. She said that it was the hand-mixing that made them taste so good. But somehow that pile of goo turned into some of the most wonderful tastes, smells, and memories that I could ever have imagined. She gently patted out each one with her hands and laid her fingers across each one as her put it on the cookie sheet, leaving behind the ridges on top. 

I remember opening the oven and seeing these golden brown, flat, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits that smelled so good that you could hear the drool sizzle as it hit the oven door! We had to flip the biscuit over and spread jelly on the bottom because you could not cut the biscuit without it crumbling to pieces. Daddy used to joke and say they were “crummy.” I can still see him sitting there after supper with the handle of his spoon making a “well” in a biscuit and pouring syrup inside until it ran over spilling on the plate. (That is, if we were out of Aunt Dot’s Fig Preserves.)

I remember growing up “in the kitchen.” When someone was down, you cook. When someone was celebrating, you cook. When someone had a death in the family, you cook. It wasn’t so much the food that Mama cooked that made it taste so good...(and here’s the secret) it was the love Mama added that made it all so special. I never realized just how much Mama did for so many people until she was gone and the stories started coming to me from everyone she touched in her life. I have boxes of cards, cut-outs from magazines, and hand-written copies of dozens and dozens of recipes Mama collected over the years. She wrote notes on them. She wrote notes in cookbooks she gave to me. She also kept cards as reminders of what people liked so she could make special things for them again when they were down, or “up.” She kept 3X5 cards recording special dinners.

For example:

Gary & Kathy Taylor - Mr & Mrs Thames June 1970
Turkey & Gravy
Rice (cream and sugar for Gary’s rice)
Sweet Potato Imperial
Corn Pie
Emerald Salad (Gary’s favorite)
Red Velvet Cake

If someone asked Mama to make “that chicken” she made last time, she could look it up.... She also wrote notes like: (.... doesn’t like...) and (.....s are ....’s favorite) or (...... is allergic to .....)

All these things made you feel like you were the center of every meal and the meal was always unforgettable.

It was a time... "sometime before flirting became extinct, when letter writing was an art, stationary was engraved, and dinner was an event." Dash Goff, the writer to Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women


  1. Replies
    1. Awww Michele! You're gonna make me cry... again! :-)

  2. I have just been thinking about those biscuits. My grandmother and mother made them the same way! Oh the memories they bring back. My grandfather used to spread syrup and sour cream on his plate at the end of dinner and use biscuits to scoop of the syrup and sour cream. I used to like to take leftover biscuits, split them (carefully) sideways through the middle, butter them, and then toast them under the broiler. Thanks for sharing such a great memory so that it could awaken my own long ago memories.

    1. Terri... I used to split and toast the leftovers for breakfast and then place a soft fried egg on top! Mmmmmmm! :-)

  3. My hubby's mother and grandmother made biscuits the exact same way, only using buttermilk instead of milk; complete with 3-finger marks - LOL

    I'm so blessed that we got to live with her for a while and she taught me so very much about cooking, sewing and quilting. Think I'll get up and make a few myself - lol

    Thanks for sharing