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The Story of Biscuits in My Family

Southerners love biscuits.

I love biscuits.

Biscuits are something to which we can always look forward. I’m sure everyone can hear my inner carboholic celebrating.

When I was a kid, Poppy made biscuits every Sunday. Except his biscuits were actually from a can, but he made practically everything else from scratch, so that was totally okay. I learned around the Lazy Susan Table to enjoy gravy on my biscuits.

This eventually led to my Gigi taking us by a local gas station to get biscuits in the morning before school and sometimes even before we went somewhere in the mornings during the summer. I always wanted a gravy biscuit, and my brother always wanted a jelly biscuit. I think I did flip-flop between gravy biscuits and bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits, which is what Gigi usually ate, and if I felt really froggy, I would even go for a sausage biscuit.

But the gravy biscuits remained my favorite.

One time, my mom asked for an egg biscuit and a jelly biscuit, and apparently, someone misunderstood and gave her an egg and jelly biscuit- something we didn’t discover until it was too late to return to the gas station. Or maybe it was a bacon jelly biscuit, I’m not sure. The point is, it was one of those situations where someone did something that made absolutely no sense.

Contrary to popular belief and what my friend’s mom once told me in high school, gravy, and I mean good gravy, can be made without meat. All it takes is butter, flour, and milk- the concoction is properly called a roux, I think. Salt and pepper are almost absolutely necessary at this point to give it that authentic gravy flavor.

In more recent years, Gigi started making her own biscuits, and then I took her recipe and started making a variation of them that turned into a mimic of the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits, though they aren’t nearly as fluffy and good as the Cheddar Bay biscuits.

Cheddar Bay biscuits are delicious, and the first time I ever had them at Red Lobster, they were so spicy I almost couldn’t eat them. I had never eaten that amount of garlic in my life, so it was overpowering to say the least, but I loved them. Also, I happened to be coming down the chicken pox at this time unbeknownst to any of us, so that might have played into the matter. This was on a Saturday, and the next day at Poppy’s house, I noticed some spots on my stomach, which Poppy said were the first signs of chicken pox.

Tomato gravy is also one of my favorite foods that goes with biscuits. You haven’t truly lived or eaten Southern food until you’ve had tomato gravy.

Biscuits are seriously a perfect food. I’m pretty sure Ms. Alice used to cut open biscuits and put butter in them. Biscuits are great for filling- and you can use meat, cheese, vegetables, and even sweet stuff. Biscuits are great for topping- gravy and even other kinds of sauces can go on top of them. Biscuits are great by themselves or as a side dish!

We love biscuits!

Gigi and Mimi’s mother, my maternal grandmother, used to make a chocolate sauce with biscuits. I always heard about this and thought it was incredibly strange. Apparently my maternal grandmother also made caramel cakes, and Mimi said she pronounced it as “CAR-uh-mel,” not “CARE-a-mel,” and my cousin Susanne and I both liked the first pronunciation better. I wonder if we can dig up the recipe for a caramel cake and make it.

That being said, the recipes are coming soon.

Beaux


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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in food, postaday, postaday2011

 

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Gigi’s Biscuits vs. Maw-Maw’s Biscuits: Two Great Varieties

Gigi’s biscuits are a style of biscuit called “drop biscuit.” When making drop biscuits, one typically creates a mixture and then drops hunks of the dough into a container (often a skillet.) There is nothing more to the process than mixing the ingredients together, then dropping them into a pan afterwards.

Maw-Maw’s style of biscuits are what I call, “roll and go.” The ingredients are mixed together, rolled out, and then a utensil, often a cookie-cutter, is used to cut out biscuits in equal sizes.

Drop biscuits come out bulky and uneven but have a great variety of texture, whereas roll and go biscuits have a kind of homogenous texture throughout and are much more bread-like in their quality.

Honestly, I love them both- biscuits are great to me, no matter how they’re made, but I can vouch for the fact that I don’t care much for frozen biscuit dough. Sure, I’ll eat frozen biscuits, but home-made biscuits invariably are better, so I encourage everyone to try making them on their own!

Beaux

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in food, postaday2011, snacks, southern food

 

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Maw-Maw’s Biscuits

Somehow, the oven quit at Caleb’s house. This was a random happenstance that saddened us all, because Maw-Maw relies on the oven to make her biscuits.

So she decided to go a different route and fry her biscuits on the stove top. This worried her greatly.


But never fear: the biscuits turned out amazingly. The texture was somewhere between a biscuit and cornbread. I thought the whole thing tasted a lot like hoe cake, and I love hoe cake.

That’s the old Southern cooking magic for you.

Caleb swears that Maw-Maw is a witch. She’s not really a witch, of course, and if she is, she hides her spell books really well.

In another blog, we’ll look at the difference between rolled out biscuits and drop biscuits.

Beaux


 
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Posted by on March 4, 2011 in breads, food, postaday2011

 

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Maw-Maw’s Delicious Food!


Just a short video showing some of Maw-Maw’s fantastic meals. We really have fun with her cooking!

Beaux

 


 
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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in food, postaday2011, southern food

 

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Tasty Ham and Egg Pie, Written in Alabamian-style English!

Author’s Note: This recipe was written entirely by Van Random and not yours truly. I am reposting here because he graciously offered the recipe to me, and it sounds absolutely delicious (even though I don’t eat ham.) Kept in tact are his endearing Southern colloquialisms. The only changes I have made are a few grammatical errors that were bugging me. Other than the tidying, it’s all him. Again, Beaux did not write this.


Step 1.

Make a roux with 2 and a third cups of water with 2 ham flavoring packets and 2 Tablespoons of self-rising flour. If you need to know how to make a roux, you add small amounts of hot broth to the flour, whisking it as you go to remove clumps. Then add it back to the main pot of hot broth and cook it a little till its mostly clot-free. A few small clods ain’t gonna hurt it none.

Step 2.

Dice up 4 boiled eggs and about 3 cups of ham.

Step 3.

Pour diced up ham & eggs into a buttered glass baking dish, of average size. Pour roux over top of this. On top of this, I put a fairly large amount of crushed black pepper. I love black pepper.

Step 4.

Mix 2 and a half cups of self-rising flour, a half a cup (approx) of melted butter, and at LEAST a cup of a half of buttermilk… Add buttermilk as needed to make the mixture thin enough that you can sorta spread it over the ham and egg mix. It’s gonna be thick-like anyway.

Step 5.

Then bake it till the top rises and gets bready. I put paprika on top before I baked it. This could take over 30 minutes.

I don’t feel like I left nothing out. You could doctor this recipe up as you want. It just occurred to me as a matter of fact that I was gonna put some frozen peas in my roux, but I forgot all about them. Oh well. Next time.

-Van Random, via Van Beaux Stephanos

 

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Mama Lay’s House: More Southern Traditions

I’ve discussed my paternal grandparents a bit, and true, I’ve a bit more to say about them, but for now, let’s turn to my maternal grandparents.

They, too, were fondly given the names: “Mama Lay” and “Papa Lay.”

Unlike Poppy, Mama Lay and Papa Lay lived about five hours away from us, and we thus saw them far less often. Going to see them required a trip, a long drive that was often more irritating than not.

Driving five hours is not a fun experience.

Riding five hours can be even less fun, but by the time I became a teenager, I had skillfully learned to listen to music on a portable CD player (back in the days when we used to actually have a use for CDs), and thus the trip was not nearly so bad.

We established a kind of ritual on the way to Mama Lay’s house- we would stop in Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, and eat at Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel served good, country breakfasts- the kinds of things that Southern folks are known for. Scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, biscuits, and gravy were all part of the menu.

When a Cracker Barrel opened years later in Dothan, I refused to go. I haven’t eaten at Cracker Barrel in Dothan at any point in time. As my grandmother has passed away, I have no real reason not to eat at the Dothan Cracker Barrel as I make no such journey to north Alabama.

Mama Lay’s house was tiny in comparison to my own house and the houses of most of the people I knew. To wit, she and Papa Lay had only five rooms- the living room, the kitchen/dining room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms, one which served as their bedroom and the other which served as a guest room.

Mama Lay’s bed had an extra mattress on it or something. I remember that I slept in the bed with her a lot when I was a kid, and that there was a strange incline that let up to her and Papa Lay’s room. Her room also had an incredibly creepy picture of Jesus that hung in it; He’s in the picture, sitting at a table, just staring at the viewer.

My grandmother made breakfast for us every day. She would also boil water in a tea kettle, and this was one of the few times in my life I remember anyone using a tea kettle. The premise of a tea kettle is that it whistles at the spout when the water has reached boiling temperature. I remember waking up to the sound of the whistling kettle and the smell of bacon and sausage frying in the pan, as well as seeing Mama Lay make biscuits. Eggs came next. She would also make coffee, I think.

Mama Lay was also a big fan of sweets- she invariably had some kind of cake in her house, and she enjoyed eating a piece of cake with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

I inherited that tendency!

Also, she was a big fan of the Price is Right, just like Ms. Alice.

Mama Lay’s filled her house with various knick-knacks; her shelves were lined with them, literally. She had a fake fireplace that I never quite understood when I was a kid, and around the fireplace were three cat statues and some stuffed chickens. The chickens always creeped me out.

Without fail, Mama Lay always wore dresses. I never, ever once saw or heard tale of her wearing pants. I thought this was something to do with her upbringing and generation for the longest time- until my grandfather passed away, and her siblings came to visit. One of them in question was wearing pants- so it was peculiar to Mama Lay to wear only dresses.

She was a fairly reserved person; I never once heard her complain, other than to say she was cold, and that seems to also be my main complaint these days. She kept quiet most of the time, but I know from personal experience of secret conversations we had that she was far sharper and aware of what exactly was going on than most people realized.

Since I’m taking this trip down memory lane, I’ll probably continue the blogs for a couple of entries.

Beaux


 
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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in food

 

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A New Year, New Customs: Reintroducing Tea

By “tea,” here I refer to the British custom of having a light meal in the afternoon.

Teatime is another name for it.

According to Wikipedia, the practice of having tea has largely been abandoned in Britain because of conflicting work schedules and other cultural shifts.

Notwithstanding, the idea of having a light meal with tea in the afternoon makes a lot of sense to me.

We tend to have a somewhat similar meal in the USA known as “coffee breaks.” The difference is that coffee breaks are slightly more informal and not really considered a part of the daily cycle of meals, as it were- that is, a coffee break is really just a break an individual takes when they’re working to have a quick cup of joe and then get on with the business, whereas tea is a formal formal cessation (at least in my mind) of working to have a meal.

Tea in this case is typically served with small sandwiches and crumpets or biscuits; this may or may not include butter and jam for the bread.

The tea meal is often times more like a real meal than people would guess. Years ago, a band called MT-TV (sounds like Empty TV) came to the ReWired Internet Café that I frequented. They were, for the most part, all British women- and their managers would prepare food for them for tea. I specifically remember her preparing a series of tuna salad sandwiches, and that obviously left a favorable impression on me.

The USA has a history of being more informal with everything, from meals to church services to what have you. But perhaps I can single-handedly revive the custom of tea and make it a little more formal for people.

Now I’m hungry for cake, or for a biscuit with butter and jam.

This is one of my goals for 2011- to make an effort to celebrate tea as much as possible.

Why not join me and tell me about your own experience?

Next time I’ll share the blog on tea cakes, which would be a perfect addition to tea.

Beaux


 
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in food

 

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