Friday, December 17, 2010

Hot buttered biscuits

I made these yesterday morning for breakfast before meeting family friends for lunch at Pulino's. The biscuits were a wonderful start to the day, Pulino's was disappointing (spotty service and lettuce aswim in a vinaigrette whose chief ingredient was water - both anomalous in the McNally empire, of which I am otherwise a great fan), and we had very good time talking to someone I practically grew up with but hardly knew.

Anyway, the biscuit: Flour, baking powder, butter, rubbed in until it looks like fine sand (I remember my mother teaching me this when I made scones. I think seeing it done is important). Some milk. Baked till golden. I have no recipe for it yet because I have been measuring them by sight, figuring out how they work.

The dough, once it has been pulled together, is suggestively soft and alive and delicate, as though too much touching will ruin it - and it will. I cut out the shapes with my remaining thin green glass, from the wonderful French kitchen shop on Mott Street, below Prince, closed sooner after 9/11.

I prefer calling them biscuits, now. The American word  has so much rich, buttery, emotional history. Women are forever whipping up batches of hot biscuits in novels and stories and films of the South. Because the biscuit is an English (and consequently South African) scone. There is no difference, except in how - and why - they are eaten:

Biscuits are breakfast and lunch and dinner. Scones are tea. Biscuits are black eyed peas and ham and grits and coffee-laced gravy...Biscuits are a foundation. Scones are ornament. Biscuits are coffee. Scones are tea. Biscuits are sliced ham and early morning on the prairie. Scones are jam and thick cream and an English church at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Sometimes, scones are Clifton beach at tea time in winter, with teapots and China cups.

But that was a long time ago.

Now that I'm thinking about biscuits, I wonder about quotations. I am sure Cormac McCarthy must have a few. And Faulkner. I shall start searching. If anyone stumbles over a nice one, please send  it this way.

Y'all come back real soon, now, y'hear?
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