linda baie: a lovingly baked memory

#12 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You meet the nicest people through Poetry Friday.

I can’t remember exactly when Linda first joined “the gang,” only that she immediately felt like an old friend. At her lovely blog Teacher Dance, she not only shares a wealth of ideas and insights about teaching poetry and creative writing, but also many original poems and personal life reflections. Her warmth, caring and generosity have won over many blog readers, who, like me, appreciate her genuine interest in others and lifelong commitment to learning. One of the things Linda is doing for Poetry Month is continuing her project of creating poems which examine different ways of looking at children growing up, essentially saying goodbye to each precious stage. She plans to combine her series of poems with family photos and create a keepsake book for her grandchildren. Very cool!

Today I’m wearing my best bib, because Linda has brought biscuits! Some of you may know about my deep, abiding love for biscuits. Yes, I’ve dallied in the past with a few cupcakes, macarons, and pies. But there is just something about biscuits — small, round, gently risen in all their brown perfection, a piece of idyllic country life, a cozy Sunday morning family breakfast. Roll, pat, cut, a fine cloud of flour, particles of good memories that linger.

Grandmother’s Biscuits
by Linda Baie

I watch her roll the dough. Swiftly goes the rolling pin,
roll left, roll right,
bump, woosh, bump, woosh.
“Don’t do too much, Linda, they’ll get tough.
The best are airy and flaky.”
Like a sought-after short order cook,
she cuts the biscuits,
gathers the scraps and
rolls them flat again.

These biscuits are like silver dollars,
to me worth even more,
knowing my grandmother’s hands knew what to do.
There’s the dough, there’s the floured board,
roll and cut, roll and cut.

We eat breakfast biscuits, with butter and syrup,
wedded to poached eggs and ham
every single morning.
I never complained, and
neither did Granddad.
At dinnertime round and flaky gems melt in my mouth
covered this time with gravy,
fried-
chicken-
skillet-
cracklins-
gravy.

If you are still hungry,
you may also add butter
and jam to a few others,
blackberries picked last week,
sugar added to
be sure they are
preserved. Hm-m-m.

Supper and picnics-
biscuits available.
For us, they were today’s Pepperidge Farm slices,
or yesterday’s Wonder rolls.
They were my grandmother’s biscuits
with the recipe in her fingers.

I am still looking.

Copyright © 2012 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.

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Linda's grandmother and father (carrying baby Linda) at Myrtle Beach, SC.

Linda: My father was killed in World War II and I wasn’t able to visit his parents very often because they lived far away, almost 40 miles.  That doesn’t seem like much today of course, but then it was a trip not taken often.  I visited them for about two weeks every summer.  They ran a full working farm with all the required things:  a large garden and barn, fields of corn and wheat, horses, cows, sheep and chickens.

Most every food product in our daily lives came directly from the farm.  My grandmother cooked on a woodstove until I was a teenager when she finally got an electric range.  What excitement it brought to that kitchen, although she continued to use the woodstove in the winter.  Every meal was sumptuous and I’d love to write about the fresh poached egg straight from the nest, the blackberries picked the day before from the vines, and the tomatoes sliced for lunch, but this is about my grandmother’s biscuits.  We had biscuits for breakfast, dinner and supper.  Remember this was a working farm and the main meal was at noon, while the leftovers, including more pie, were heated up for supper.

As I grew older, I began to help with the biscuits.  I learned to knead the mound of dough and to roll it out and cut the biscuits for the pan.  I began to ask for the recipe so I could take them back home to make for my family.  My grandmother mostly said things like, “oh, just the usual, a little flour, a little shortening, a little baking powder and salt; I just throw it in and it comes out all right.”  I never was able to persuade her to write it down.

When my grandmother died, I asked my aunt if she had the recipe.  Nope.  I asked  Grandmother’s sisters if they knew it.  Nope.  Looking for that recipe has become a lifelong  search, to find just the one that will carry me back to my visits, the house, the garden, the sweet times I had visiting.

The recipe I’m sharing today doesn’t quite fit, but I’ve used it for a long time and like the results.  The resulting biscuits taste good and the recipe makes a lot.  I freeze what’s leftover so I can pull out a few biscuits whenever we have the yearning for biscuits with certain meals like beef stew, corn chowder, scrambled eggs.  And then I think of my grandparents when I butter my biscuit, and take a bite.

Country-Fresh Biscuits

         Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large bowl with fork, mix well 6 cups all-purpose flour, ½ cup instant nonfat dry-milk powder, ¼ cup double-acting baking powder (yes, ¼ cup), ¼ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar.

Then cut 2 cups shortening into flour mixture to resemble coarse crumbs; stir in about 1 ½ cups water until moistened (if too dry, add ¼ to ½ cup more water).

Turn dough onto floured surface: with floured hands.  Knead 8 to 10 times until smooth.  With floured rolling pin, roll dough about ¾  inch thick.  With floured 2 ½ inch round cookie cutter, cut biscuits; place on cookie sheet 1 inch apart.  Press trimmings together, reroll and cut.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden.  Serve warm.  Makes about 2 dozen, or more if you use a smaller cutter.

Up to 2 months ahead:

Prepare biscuits as above but do not bake.  Place on cookie sheet, cover; freeze.  Then when frozen, place in heavy weight plastic bag or container.  Keep frozen.  About 40 minute before serving, pre-heat oven to 400degrees, place frozen biscuits on cookie sheet and bake about 30 minutes until golden.

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via espalier

Linda Baie is a long time teacher of middle school students at an independent school for the gifted in Denver, Colorado.  She has recently moved from the classroom and moved into the part-time position of literacy coach for the 8-14 year age group.  She has a son and son-in-law, a daughter and daughter-in-law, one grandson and two granddaughters.  Her husband is retired.  If there is any passion it is reading, writing and being outdoors.  For a long while, Linda rode horses, but has been lately too busy to take care of a horse so had to give it up.  Maybe someday she will return.  She blogs at TeacherDance.

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Previously: Menu/Giveaway/Door PrizesApril Pulley SayreMary QuattlebaumHelen FrostLinda AshmanGail Gerwin, Martha Calderaro, Kathi Appelt, Robyn Hood Black, Charles Waters, Adele Kenny.

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

64 thoughts on “linda baie: a lovingly baked memory

  1. Not fair to post about biscuits when some of us want one for breakfast very much! Linda is right–in the country, biscuits are served three times a day, with everything. Biscuits and cornbread sustain life!

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    1. And, amazingly, eating all that, we didn’t gain a pound! Even visiting, I was kept busy with chores, and we walked all over the farm tending to different things, like checking on the windmill to be sure it was keeping a water tank filled. Thanks Candice!

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    2. I’m dreaming of biscuits right this minute — break a warm one apart, a little steam rises, slather on butter and jam or maybe a little honey. Mmmmmmm.

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  2. Dear Linda:
    Keep searching for that recipe! One of these days, experimentation will align the ingredients within your fingers, and you will be surprised.

    Meanwhile, write your recipe down – your grandson and granddaughters will want to know it someday… ☺

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    1. Dear Tadmack, I do search & try different recipes; biscuits abound at my house, especially when grandchildren are here! I will certainly pass them on. Thanks for the thought of “aligning with my fingers”!

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  3. “There’s the dough, there’s the floured board,
    roll and cut, roll and cut.”
    Yum! I need some nonfat dry-milk powder right now!
    This is such a wonderful post about Linda’s childhood, and I loved reading about her grandma’s biscuits and other goodies as well as seeing Linda’s family photo. So beautiful!
    You’re right about meeting the best people in here – Linda is so wise and kind.
    Thank you, Linda…and thank you Jama, for another great meal. a.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Amy. The words mean much. Poetry linked with memories and food is just the most inviting thing. It means happy times and tasty company, doesn’t it?

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    2. Glad you enjoyed the post, Amy. Wasn’t it fun seeing tiny Linda all bundled up? So sweet. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about Linda’s childhood. It sounds foreign to me, having grown up in Hawai’i.

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  4. I loved the poem coming up to the recipe in her fingers, and then the story of looking and looking made that even more poignant to me. And that search, somewhat impossible, driven by love, you know is just the kind of search I love. I think there’s a poem there, too, or have I missed it, Linda?

    Thank you both for the best way to start my morning. Even if I’m a cornbread person. Maybe if I had your grandmother I’d have the biscuit yearning; I appreciate them, especially with jam, but I guess so much of our taste is based on memory — or reading (we didn’t have cornbread at home, but all the stories I read made me yearn for it, and these days I bake it for me and Laura Ingalls, etc.

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    1. It is interesting what we grew up doing. Another grandmother was the cornbread maker, & I have her recipe. It’s the search for that taste that will take me back to the time that is so elusive. I agree with you, Jeannine, maybe another look at that in poetry would be interesting. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you Tabatha. When I found the photo, I wished my mother was still here to ask about it. This grandmother didn’t travel far, so to go to South Carolina (from Missouri) was a big deal, especially during this time. It was a loving thing for her to do.

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  5. I am struck by the picture of Linda’s father, in uniform, showing off his tiny baby, Linda. And, then knowing he was killed inn WWII. I’m sorry you did not get to know him. But, its great that you had a wonderful relationship with his parents!

    We have a missing biscuit recipe in our family too – it was my mother’s grandmother’s. No one can get it right!

    Loved your poetry 🙂

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    1. Thank you Libby. Best wishes for your search. Sometimes I believe that the taste was not just in the biscuits, but in the kitchen, the woodstove, and as I alluded to, in her fingers.

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    2. It’s definitely a very touching photo. I wonder if that was the first time Linda’s grandmother got to see her since she was born.

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  6. Thanks for a great post, Linda. It brought back memories of my grandmother. She cooked intuitively, never used a recipe. She, too, made beautiful, fluffy biscuits. I have warm memories of watching her roll out dough in her cozy little kitchen. She “attempted” to write the recipe down for me when I went away to college. Unfortunately, I ended up baking a batch of little rocks. But I still have her recipe card tucked away in my box. : ) Sure miss those biscuits.

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    1. Thank you Leslie. It is a wonder how they did all that cooking and baking without looking at a recipe. I guess I didn’t watch enough, really. They truly had the recipes in their fingers!

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    2. Some things can never be replicated. And it’s so often grandmothers who have the market cornered with their biscuits and pasta sauces.

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  7. My husband and I were just talking about biscuits recently, how they were a staple at meals, and a staple for dessert…strawberry shortcake…and how they were made by my grandmother, though I didn’t use the recipe in her fingers phrase per se (wish I had), that’s where it was!

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    1. Donna, you’ve just reminded me about those shortcake biscuits too. You are right, no sponge cake for us, but a large biscuit, sliced in half. I think a book of bread memories could be collected by all of us! Thank you.

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  8. The pictures! The recipe! The poem! What a lovely visual and literary feast (not to mention all the deliciousness explored as well. I loved the way you ended with this: And then I think of my grandparents when I butter my biscuit, and take a bite.

    Food and memory are so closely intertwined, and the foods we love are generally loved (I think) because we associate their taste with a loved one. My grandmother made an Indian sweet that I have searched all over in vain for – I’m sure that even if I find something close, it will not match what I remember feasting on in her dining room. Thank you for sharing this, Linda…and that lovely photograph – so many stories there as well!

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    1. Oh, Tara, I hope you will someday find your Indian sweet. I guess most of the time we need to hold those tastes in our mind’s eye only, won’t we? Thank you for your comment that connected; I love hearing the stories!

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  9. I loved all of this, food and memories are forever linked. When Linda said she thinks of her grandparents when she butters her biscuit I could see her in that moment of pause right before taking a bite; relishing in the memory for just a moment. Lovely all around! Thanks for featuring Linda, her generosity is made so clear in every post and comment she makes.

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    1. Hi Betsy!

      Glad you enjoyed Linda’s poem, recipe and story. You are so right about her generosity. A beautiful person inside and out.🙂

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  10. Linda and Jama,
    I so enjoyed reading this. You took me back to my grandmothers’ kitchens growing up and all of the fresh off the farm ingredients and home cooking. Thank you for the fond memories brought back to surface.

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    1. How lucky you were to experience a similar “fresh off the farm” experience growing up, Dana. As Linda said, it’s really wonderful when poetry can connect us with others and bring fond memories to the surface. Thanks for your lovely comment.

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  11. Like the comments shared above, the photo is indeed very striking. Your father looked gorgeous, Linda, and he seemed to hold you oh-so-gingerly and with such pride. Such a blessing that this moment was captured – it stood the test of time and is a testament of your father’s love, truly beautiful. I feel very privileged that you shared this with us.

    I am not that familiar with biscuits, although the way that you described it made me taste the flaky soft flavor in my mouth. I don’t recall growing up eating biscuits, we had a lot of pan de sal (salted bread) that when baked right also melts in one’s mouth – I would often dip that in what is known as Filipino hot chocolate made from cacao beans (called tsokolate). Delicious and heavenly.🙂

    Thank you Jama for the beautiful spreads you have for us this entire April. I’m LOVING it!🙂

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    1. Well, I believe that I would like a taste of that pa de sal as well as the tsokolate! We used to dip a kind of butter cookie into our hot chocolate. What fun to hear your memories, too, Myra. And I am honored to be here with all these wonderful writers, to have been asked by Jama. The posts have been so special, written by good writers, but enhanced by you Jama. Thanks for making us look so good!

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    2. Now both of you have my mouth watering for dipping breads/cookies in hot chocolate. I’ve never done that!! I can only imagine . . . *swoon* . . . heavenly is the right word, Myra.

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  12. I’ve really been looking forward to “getting to know Linda a little better,” and Jama certainly has a knack for drawing out folks. What a rich post. I was transported, reminded of my own grandmother, and tasting biscuits all at the same time. Linda, your poem so wonderfully captures the rhythm of the act of biscuit-making, and that last line, about the recipe in her fingers…. delicious. Thanks to both of you lovely ladies for sharing.

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    1. I feel as if I just received a big hug, Robyn. Thank you for your compliment. It’s great to hear from so many that they had grandmothers to remember lovingly.

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    2. Yes, Robyn, I loved the descriptions of biscuit making in Linda’s poem. Very vivid and I could just see it all happening in my mind’s eye. The “hm-m-m” said it all at just the right moment🙂.

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  13. Thanks to everyone for your words. I appreciate the different ideas each of you have taken from my writing & responded to. You have made my Monday such a lovely day! And Jama, what a pleasure to visit your kitchen. Thank you for inviting me!

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    1. It was an honor to share your poem and recipe on my blog, Linda. Thanks again for finding that wonderful photo of your grandmother and Dad and you. We’d all like to come to your house for some of your homemade biscuits🙂.

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  14. Mmmm… biscuits. When I went gluten-free 5 years ago the hardest thing was giving up baking — I used to love baking. It took me almost 6 months to get the hang of GF baking and biscuits were one of the things that came out well so I started making them a lot to go with soup or a salad or poached eggs. Thank you for sharing your wonderful poem and the memories of your grandmother.

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    1. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to make that transition to GF baking. Luckily there are some really great recipes out there now as well as more GF products for sale.

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      1. Katya, thanks for stopping by. I have a friend who is gluten-free also, so she has brought the bread when we have lunches together. I’ll have to find a biscuit recipe for her, too!

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  15. My mother made biscuits this way. She tried to teach me, but I could never get the feeing of the dough just right. She did it all by feel. My grandmother made what they called hoecake. It was biscuit dough patted flat on a round cast iron griddle and cooked on top of the stove. When it was time to turn it over and cook the top side, she would slide it off onto an old aluminum lid and flip it over onto the griddle again to finish. We’d break off a chunk and drag it through the cane syrup poured on the plate. Thanks for sharing your sweet memory and for calling up one of mine.

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    1. Thanks Doraine, so happy to have a memory with you! I’ve made those ‘hoecakes’ on campouts with students. It’s just a little bit of the past for them to experience. I didn’t include it in my piece, but there was syrup on the table always!

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  16. Linda,

    I love both your poem and your story. I so enjoy reading poems about special foods from our childhood and the memories they evoke. Years ago, I wrote a poem about my maternal grandmother–my Babci–making her delicious Christmas babka. Like you, I’m hoping to find her recipe among the things we took and saved from my mother’s house before selling it.

    I think it was Stanley Kunitz who said–and I may be paraphrasing–that “Memory is each man’s poet-in residence.”

    I’m sorry to hear about your father being killed in World War II. And, yes, driving forty miles seemed like going on a long journey back in the days when we were young children.

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    1. Elaine, thanks for stopping to read about my memory. I’m glad you enjoyed it & found your own connection, the babka. We had something called leppe cookies at my other grandmother’s, but that recipe is lost too. Must write things down! Thanks also for the lovely quote. I will be sure to put it prominently in my writers notebook!

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  17. I’m new to your blog, just happened to stumble upon it today. I wanted to share that I absolutely love the poem and the story about her grandmother’s biscuits. I try to encourage others to preserve food memories *now* because once they are gone, they are gone. Even though Linda doesn’t have the exact recipe, just her documenting of this special story is wonderful.

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    1. Hi Brandie,

      So happy you stopped by today. Glad you liked Linda’s poem and story. I agree with you about the importance of preserving food memories. It’s great to discover how much we all have in common; it makes this sometimes crazy, impersonal world feel that much cozier🙂.

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  18. I will definately make the biscuits. I love the bread recipe posted on pinterest also. It can be mixed up in 2 mins (really), then sets over night. The real reason I am writting is because my name is Linda Baie also. We have some great things in common also.

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    1. Hello to another Linda Baie! That’s amazing you found your way here. I’ll have to tell the other Linda about you. Thanks for visiting!

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