I finished reading Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life this morning. She is the creator of the famous blog Orangette, where she incorporates the recipes that shaped her life and her memories with the stories that made them so special. Her book is a collection of essays that tell her story; each can be read separately, but together they make a delightful whole. At the end of each essay is, appropriately, a recipe. Not just any recipe, but a creation that has a specific connection to that character or chapter in her life. Her father's potato salad, the cake she made for this or that person, the meal she cooked this particular important day ... it's a charming, moving, and delicious account.
Her book naturally made me ponder my own journey, and what it is that has defined important moments in my short life. The initial (and completely not serious) answer would be hair cuts. I can tell exactly what grade I was in/how old I was in any given picture by my hair. However, there are definitely certain foods and tastes that I associate with certain moments, with important memories and events. The scones I made for my poetry reading, the white chicken chili that reminds me of Andrew every time I cook or eat it, my grandmother's cranberry-and-apple casserole, the apple cake at summer camp that I spent every exhausting week looking forward to ... and my mom's biscuits.
She invented her own recipe -- a little of this, a little of that throughout her early married years, combining her mother's and my dad's mother's biscuits in a delightful combination that resulted in the happiest of Saturday mornings for me as a child. As soon as they came from the oven, my dad would stand over the hot pan, knife in hand, braving the heat to slice and fill them with too much butter. They're best that way: with too much butter. I never put anything else on them as a child (and I still don't sometimes), no jelly or honey. I ate them just like that -- just soft, crumbly biscuit and dripping butter. We ate them all week. They're the perfect base for strawberry shortcake. Cake is no comparison. The next breakfast or two, mom would re-butter them, separate tops from bottoms, lay them out on a baking sheet in the oven, and toast them for breakfast. We called it "biscuit toast" and it was my favorite way to eat them. They are soft and barely crispy when first baked, but as they are toasted a day or two later, they become delightfully thin and so crispy as to crunch satisfyingly when you bite them, and then melt in a mass of sweet bread and warm butter in your mouth. No other breakfast was as anticipated in my mind as the mornings my mother would make biscuits.
Now, as a young adult, I have made them myself. Only half a dozen times, however, and the chief flaw in this recipe is, due to it being a homemade recipe, it has never been measured precisely or written down. I learned these biscuits at my mother's side, and even now, when I make them on my own, I am constantly double-checking against her knowledge, barraging her with a stream of is this right? As a result, I cannot give you the recipe. I could give you the skeleton of a recipe, but it would not satisfy. I beg your forgiveness for building such an appealing picture up and then withholding the treat. But don't despair. I will figure out how to share the biscuits. And then you'll see what I mean.