Guest Post: Biscuits from heaven, gravy from hell
Here is another guest post from my (sort-of) cousin – Heather Bradley -
BISCUITS FROM HEAVEN, GRAVY FROM HELL: Despite my mishaps, I can cook. My beef wellington is a gift to humanity. My pheasant under glass should be featured in Southern Living. My homemade apple tarts, cinnamon rolls, and strawberry short cakes will make you want to slap your mama. Despite this culinary prowess, there is one thing that I have never mastered….the art of the perfect, southern biscuit. Those golden, flaky, light little bits of heaven. And, it’s not like I haven’t been trying. I’ve been trying for years. There was the time that I used too much salt and they came out so hard that I applied for a patent for a new building material. Or the time I used too much Crisco and they came out tasting like a rendered pig. Or the time I don’t know what the hell I did and they came out like cement pancakes. I had to throw that pan away. You should see what trying to remove bad biscuits from a pan with a sledgehammer can do to said pan.
And, there have been many other unsuccessful attempts that my poor, damaged psyche has buried deep in the recesses of my mind behind a CAUTION DO NOT GO THERE sign but which my husband would be happy to gleefully recount for you. Over a beer. Or five.
Which is why I loved going home during the summer and on holidays. My Grandma W could make the most perfect, heavenly, Southern biscuits. And she did it without even *trying.* She would take this old, wooden trough she always kept filled with flour out of the cabinet. Throw in some milk and other goodies (if I knew what it was and had paid more attention I wouldn’t have my exclusive patent on biscuit building materials…Bisco-ment Quick), swirl it up, scoop up a handful, pat it around, place it on a pan, toss it in the oven, and…a few minutes later… whip out these perfectly formed, golden on the top, flaky in the middle, light, heavenly, manna from the Gods, biscuits. I loved those biscuits like I love my own children. I would even wake up early during the summer, and drive to their house for those biscuits. 7:30 am was hot biscuit time. I would have them with butter, or homemade pear preserves, or Alabama honey, or cane syrup made from sugar cane grown in her back yard and (yes, I SWEAR this next part is true) made in a giant cast iron vat in a shed behind her house that you had to stir with these giant oars. Totally. Not. Kidding. And, if I was lucky, I would get homemade gravy. That gravy was number five on the list of things that will greet me in heaven (number 1 is my kids, number 2 is those biscuits, number 3 is a maid, and number 4 is a shirtless cabana boy named Javier).
One summer morning I got up early and drove to her house for biscuits. There were only three of us, me, Grandma W, and her husband, Papa W, for a WHOLE PAN full of heavenly biscuits (score). And, simmering on the stove was…gravy (total score). So, we sat at the table, held hands, blessed the food, and I (greedily) grabbed three biscuits (this was before we knew carbs were not our friend), broke them open, and SLATHERED them in gravy.
My brain was in automatic sensory memory mode, highly anticipating that incredible taste of gravy-covered heavenly biscuit as I took the fork… mouth already watering… sliced into the first bite… hand quivering with anticipation… brought the first bite to my mouth…nose smelling something NOT quite right…and put the thing in my mouth before I could stop myself.
You see, the gravy was not the typical southern gravy made from fat, flour, salt, pepper, water, and milk. No, it was made from POTTED MEAT (if you don’t know what that is, google “potted meat ingredients” but do it before you eat lunch). Grandma W knew I loved gravy. She was out of fat. She used the meat substitute she had on hand to make the gravy and give me what I loved. I loved her for that. The end result…not so much.