Sunday Grace at the table
W i t h G o e
Nothing says Sunday quite like fresh, homemade biscuits. When I was very little, Sundays were re- served for Sunday morning church and dinner at Mommom’s. My great-grandmother, Mom-mom, was a fierce force to be reckoned with bundled into a fourfoot something package that smelled like lilac, never without her housecoat and butterscotch candies and a Kleenex tucked into her pocket. Looks can be deceiving. Mess with her and she’d just as soon send you into the backyard to cut a switch. The boys, my brother and cousin, learned quickly a tiny branch is not the lesser of two evils.
Mostly we followed her direction and minded our manners. My grandfather was quick to remind us of the time he tried to leave the yard and Mom-mom tied him to the clothesline. Free-range parenting had a different meaning those days, I suppose. Her house, on the corner of Peachblossom Avenue in Cambridge, with a small, but rowdy young boy tied to the clothesline, must’ve caught the attention of a passer-by because my grandfather was able to convince the man he had been playing cowboys and gotten himself caught up. When Mommom got wise to his great escape, let’s say switches and clotheslines were the least of my grandfather’s concerns.
But stay on her sweet side and she’d let us into the kitchen where effortless magic happened. Eastern Shore-style cooking wasn’t so much an exception as the rule. Plates piled high with collard greens, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, roast goose and biscuits were Sunday favorites. Mom-mom’s been gone now more years than I care to count, buried in Old Trinity alongside Pop-pop, her childhood sweetheart, but when I catch myself feeling nostalgic, I head into the kitchen. Many of her recipes were never written down and some, though written, impossible to recreate her way. I borrowed this recipe from one re-printed in Garden and Gun, and I like to think it does her justice.
With just a few ingredients these biscuits really are “easy like Sunday morning” in the very best way.
3 cups self-rising flour
1½ cups high-quality whole buttermilk
Melted butter or margarine, for topping
Coarse salt, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Add flour to a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Mix by moving your open hand along the side of the bowl, folding the flour into the buttermilk but taking care not to overwork the dough. When the dough can be loosely shaped into a ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and fold it gently until it comes together. Flatten by hand to an inch thickness. Punch out rounds using a biscuit cutter or a glass. Grease a baking sheet with butter or coat with non-stick cooking spray and place the biscuits on top, almost touching. Arrange any scraps around the sides, almost touching. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter, sprinkle on salt, and bake for 15 minutes or until risen and lightly golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, brush with more butter, and serve immediately.
Homemade strawberry jam is the preferred accompaniment, but anyway you choose, they are sure to be delicious. My brother’s complaint was that I only sent home five with him. Perhaps next time he should make his own biscuits. Go with grace.