by Buck Reed
In cooking, there is a hierarchy of dishes, cuisines, and ingredients that most everyone can agree on. But, like most things in life, the simple pleasures are the best pleasures of life. For this reason, I suspect that the biscuit gets the entire month of September to itself.
Good bread is a staple at any meal, but a warm, tasty biscuit can take the spotlight anytime. Biscuits are relatively easy to make compared with bread. Once you learn to make them, they can actually be the most wonderful afterthought you can add to any meal. Good people cook, the best people bake, and I am not even sure you can consider yourself a good person if you can’t make a biscuit. All the great literary characters in Western novels made biscuits, and most considered it a higher calling. Augustus McCrae wouldn’t let anyone besides himself make the morning biscuits.
So, why a whole month dedicated to biscuits? I would suspect because even if it actually has a mixing method named after it—the biscuit mixing method— there are actually a number of ways to create a biscuit. Taking 30 days to explore and experiment with these methods may actually seem like a short time to dedicate to this undertaking. The ingredients are simple enough: flour, fat, salt, and liquid mixed together in the proper proportions, order, and technique, will yield a good biscuit. Of course, like with most simple things, you can complicate them with the addition of other ingredients. Cheese, ham, bacon, and fresh herbs can be added to make a unique addition to flavor. During the Civil War when flour was at a shortage, they made biscuits with sweet potatoes. And like most things made out of necessity, they soon found their way into our repertoire because they are just that tasty.
The idea is not so much what you can do with a biscuit, but what a biscuit can do for you. Because they can be made so quickly, they have saved me on several occasions. Once, when the bread didn’t quite work out due to bad yeast, we threw together a cheddar biscuit just in time to save the meal. Another time, when the dessert wasn’t cutting it—and you gotta have dessert—a biscuit became strawberry shortcake. We do not use the word fail on the cruise ships.
A quick breakfast sandwich, an accompaniment at tea, an essential in biscuits and gravy, and a necessity for any stew, are just a few of the many uses for biscuits. In fact, you can make a biscuit every day this month and you might not have to serve them the same way twice. Try it!
And, if you want to talk about memorable, I would wager almost everyone can remember the best biscuit they ever had and who made it for them.