Being a good Southerner, cornbread and biscuits played predominate rolls in my culinary upbringing. My mother made good cornbread and we absolutely loved it with butter and molasses. So good . . . such a treat. This is still a treasured supper dish in our house now. Our children adore cornbread and molasses – finding it as big a treat as I did as a child.
Mom-mom, however, was not a born Southerner, coming from Oregon, but she endeavored to make a pan of cornbread nearly everyday for farm dinners (mid-day meal). Her cornbread was very different from my mother’s. Hers was flat and dense and quite sweet – everything my mother’s wasn’t. You didn’t put molasses on that flat bread, just butter. I don’t know where she learned how to make it like that, and I’ve never seen cornbread like it anywhere else. But, it was good. And, my grandfather liked it – and that was all that really mattered.
We were not a strong biscuit family. Sure, we ate biscuits, made good ones and liked them, but I don’t recall anything special about them – no important techniques, recipes, or ingredient secrets that were passed on. In fact, the first biscuits I remember making were with my great-grandmother, Grammy. I thought it was amazing and I loved helping her. First, you took a cardboard tube and peeled off the top, then you whacked it hard on the counter and pulled doughy biscuits out and set them on a pan. We baked them for 10 minutes and you were done. Grammy was a farm wife with four children, and many time-consuming tasks, who did not really enjoy cooking. For her, sliced bread really was one of the best inventions . . . canned biscuits, a close second.
I make biscuits like my mother (and mother-in-law) did – from scratch and almost once a week. They are easy to make, and often I make them because they are fast and filling for this small brood of mine. This past fall, I checked out a book from the library called Biscuit – part of the Southern Foodways Alliance series. It was a great little reference and had many rifts on biscuits I wanted to try. I turned the book in after a few weeks but my mind kept coming back to it every time I made biscuits. So, when I was in a book store in Raleigh last month, I bought this little gem. I’ve made a few of the different biscuits and it has been fun. One of the most popular in our house has been the fried pie recipe. Basically, a biscuit dough, rolled thin, filled with spiced pumpkin or apple, deep fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. So good!