Biscuits seem like the first apt metaphor right now.
But let me digress with the second: I’m starting to recognize that I see life as the molten interior of a well-composed pot pie.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ll get after it. With a modicum of gusto. I’ll jam my spork into that flaky crust and start flinging that goop all over the place. I’ve been known to have parties and make hats and at least download blueprints for the hovercraft David and I are going to build.
In other words, I’ll do okay. But there will be a lot of mess. Crumbs on the bowl and stains on my shirt and errant peas all over the dining surface. Sometimes it’s just not pretty. I will cite the last few months as evidence of this. Mostly positive, but unsettling at a few points.
To my best friend, however, life is but an impertinent little citrus fruit, and she is one of those scary juicing devices designed for the food-service industry.
There is no ambiguity. No hesitation. There is no protracted existential discussion of roles on the food chain. And there is no mercy. The lever simply cocks, the reamer plunges in, and every single drop of life is squeezed out. Every. Drop.
I get pictures from her dressed up like a 1940s WAVE girl. Or on a lawn chair in the middle of a blizzard, her goofy incandescent smile only obscured by the ten-gallon hat she keeps around. Postcards from Brussels. Or text messages telling me that she’s moved to San Francisco. PILES of books, and she’ll actually go out and read the ones you suggest, and then she’ll send a thoughtful email about them. She knitted me a hat after I shaved my head because it seemed apt. I should mention that these aformentioned endeavors have occured whilst she was working full time and slashing her way through a PhD program.
Like I said. Every Drop. No day is wasted, no advienture is refused.
Some people just get it.
In the middle of my vacation, I literally took a vacation and went to see her in Atlanta.
I had never been. I passed through once in the 80s en route to Athens (Don’t judge. It was a different era) but this was the first chance I had to really explore. Like I said, she’s finishing up a PhD, but a brief window opened whereby my usual kneejerk impedimentia – workload, money, time, airfare, didn’t seem to matter.
Needless to say, we ate well. I don’t like to hurl around the phrase “of my life” too often, but Antico’s pizza lived up. I had never thought I could eat such a marvel of structural and temporal engineering – yeasty, charred, thin-crust supporting perfectly timed toppings that were neither greasy nor undercooked nor burned nor dry. This should be your one must-go if you ever find yourself visiting ATL.
Some other food-related shoutouts: to the chocolate cookies and Hario-poured coffee at The Little Tart Bakeshop (I snuck there before meeting Sara at the MARTA station), the very serious BBQ at Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt (tender ribs and really rich sides), the pig-ear greens at the Wrecking Bar (along with their impressive Burboun list), and the Margaritas at Agave.
Star Provisions is a great foodie shopping destination, too. Cheese-Shop, Butcher Shop, Bakery, Wine Store… coupled with cavernous rooms full of rustic tableware and fancy linens (and you know of my weakness for those.)
Oh. And this. The Spotted Trotter. Go. I do not have any more words.
Which Brings me to this.
I don’t think you can be taught how to make biscuits. You have to figure it out. You need a good eye for when flour needs to be sifted and you need intuition to break up the fat so that it striates correctly and a delicate touch to keep the ingredients cold enough. You need to work the dough… just enough… and cut with equal parts fury and calm.
I’ve agonized over these for several weeks. The quirky recipe doesn’t seem to take into consideration the water content of butter or the added pH of buttermilk It’s been a challenge to learn to simply trust myself that I’ve done enough.
Such is me, lately. I’m surrounded by so many people who for whom a zesty, fearless life just seems to come naturally, a stark reminder that I’m so clumsy and so prone to overcautiousness.
I am not writing from envy – I write from gratitude. Your influence really matters. Ive missed you.
Basic Southern Biscuts, adapted from Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree
2 1/4 Cups Self-Rising Biscuit Florur or the Macguiverd version therof, sifted.
1 Cup Buttermilk (note: recipe calls for either milk or buttermilk… my results have been superior w/ the latter – JM)
4 ounces butter, two ounces chopped into half-inch cubes, two ounces chopped into quarter inch-cubes and chilled. (note: recipe calls for either butter or shortening. I chose butter. JM)
Oven to 425
Measure out your flour. The recipe indicates you can formulate an acceptable substitute for self-rising pastry flour by combining equal parts cake and all purpouse flour, with 1 1/2T and 1t of salt for every cup. So, cup each of cake/AP, 3T plus a pinch of BP, 2T of kosher salt. Whisk vigourously.
Dribble the small cubes of butter atop the flour, and work in quickly, with the tips of your fingers, until the flour is meal-like. Repeat with the larger cubes, this time, making sure that there are no pieces larger than about a pea. Mixture itself should resemble crumbled feta.
Form a hole in the center of the flour mixture, and add the buttermilk. Incorporate quickly with wide swoops of a strong spatula, just two or three twirls until the loose flour dissapears.
Pour the mixture out on to a lightly floured surface. Book tells you to fold thrice. I tell you to fold ONCE.
Cut or scoop the buscuits into a lightly buttered pan, and bake until the tops are just browned.
Allow to cool for about ten minutes, serve with something unctuous and if at all possible, oinky. Live it up.