Tuesday, August 13, 2013

3rd Week of August: Food -- Angel Biscuits

So this weekend we had a few friends over for a fancy farewell to THE Ali who inspired this blog.  We're currently not sure how we're going to survive with her more than a few minutes away.  Stay tuned to see how we do...  Matt grilled chicken wings and I planned to make biscuits.  I know, we're so "fancy". I ended up having no time to make biscuits, but maybe this weekend!

The thought of making biscuits inspired me to make those delicious gluten-filled carbohydrates the subject matter for my first food installment on the blog, so here it goes.....

Several years ago for Christmas, my Mom gave me, my sister and my cousin a collection of some of her favorite recipes.
It's a well used little book, with food stains and recipes that are falling out and stuffed in.  It has recipes like Chocolate Chess Pie, Italian Eggplant (Eggplant Parmigiana), Grandma's Christmas Cookies, Lexington BBQ Slaw, etc. Mom also included some photocopies of my Grandma's hand-written recipes, a sweet reminder of how wonderful a cook she was.  These were recipes like Chow Chow and Dried Figs and Beets in Spiced Vinegar.

And a recipe she called "Angel Biscuits".

(I write notes on all my recipes that I try: ya know, how it turned out and what to add or change.  This recipe's note is simply, "mmm...")

I was ecstatic that I finally had a family biscuit recipe!  My husband and I often discuss the difference and importance of "side bread" and what it can mean for you and your family.  The type of bread you are used to at the dinner table often signifies class, or culture, or history or some other small family story that may be very telling and important.  Matt always grew up with these delectable biscuits that were like little toasted clouds.  He also grew up with cornbread, but what you would know as a fried johnny cake--NOT a muffin.

I, however, always grew up with store bought yeast rolls (kept warm in a dish towel in a metal colander by the dinner table).  I still don't know if this was just for ease or if my grandma didn't have enough space in her kitchen to make biscuits--and when you are making a rump roast (which she always did for Sunday/Special Occasion Dinner) it does take up most of your oven.  A small pan of yeast rolls can be shoved into a corner in the oven, or brown while the meat is resting. Biscuits, on the other hand, require a lot more effort, timing and space. At least in my experience.

Maybe there is no reason why I never knew her to make biscuits. Maybe she just preferred yeast rolls.

So naturally, when I see this recipe in my Grandmother's handwriting I was so delighted. "Aha!" I said.  "She DID make biscuits."  Because this was in her handwriting, it had to be her recipe, or one she had gotten from a friend or family member, passed down through generations.

I made the biscuits and they were great! Light, but dense with that doughy sweet flavor only a homemade biscuit can have.  It wasn't greasy like a Bojangles biscuit (not knockin'-love me some Boj), but it was still delectable.  Good enough to eat plain right out of the oven.  And with a little bit of strawberry freezer jam? Good heavens!

I've continued to make them since then about once every other month.  Usually, this occurs when I need Buttermilk for some other recipe.  I'll finish the remanding buttermilk by making biscuits (or pancakes....or both).

So here I am in happy Biscuit Heaven, with the angels, including my Grandma, praising me for carrying on the tradition of making biscuits!

Then, one day, I'm talking to my Mom about "Grandma's Biscuits" and I'm going on and on about them.

She interrupts me and says, "Meredith, your Grandmother never made biscuits."

"But I have her recipe.  You gave it to me! It's in her handwriting!!"

There was a slow pause.

"Oh yeah, I remember.  I think she made them a couple times.  That's a recipe she liked out of my college Home Economic Textbook, so she wrote it down."


I still make the biscuits, and I still think about my Grandmother every time. I've gotten over the fact that they are technically "textbook" biscuits and not some family heirloom.  To me they are still my Grandmother's "angel" biscuits and they always will be.

And with my Mom's homemade James Grape Jelly, nothing on this world is better....

No matter what "side bread" you are used to or wish you had growing up,  learn to make it, cherish it and pass it on to your family so that the tradition of biscuits, yeast rolls, honey rolls, crescent rolls, cornbread, johnny cakes or whatever else can continue on.

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