#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.
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,
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
Supper and picnics-
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.