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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

Biscuits, even the 'whomp' kind, make world a better place

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

I wonder how many biscuits have been made since the beginning? When was the start of biscuits, and what is the origin of the word? These questions come to mind when I'm hungry for biscuits but disappear when I'm buttering or chomping on this wonderful, longtime delicacy.

My earliest memories include climbing up on a Hoosier cabinet, opening the top door, reaching into a syrup bucket and grasping a cold biscuit left over from breakfast. My first delicate maneuver was learning how to hollow out the center of a cold biscuit for sugar or jelly, yet not puncture the bottom, causing a leak.

History tells of a "poor man's bread" when travelers without pans made a slight dent in the top of a sack of flour, poured in a cup of water, and made a ball of dough. This ball was flattened out into a strip, wrapped around a stick and baked over the coals of a campfire. Chuck wagon cooks often slept with their kegs of sourdough to keep the mix warm enough to keep the yeast working.


Mother consistently made beautiful, average-size biscuits. Dad made biscuits big as saucers and 2 inches tall. Grandma Trew made little biscuits that could double as hockey pucks at times. Whatever the size and consistency, and no matter how many were baked, all would be gone by the end of the day. I don't remember ever throwing out a leftover biscuit to the dogs.

All biscuits talked about so far have been "made from scratch" using mostly flour, baking powder, soda, shortening, a pinch of salt and milk or water. This mix has to be rolled flat, cut or formed and allowed to rise in a warm place, leaving a big mess in the kitchen. In the end, seldom did a batch of biscuits turn out exactly like the last effort, although the same measurements were used.


This chore is now a thing of the past as we embrace progress at its best. Today we welcome "whomp biscuits" to the kitchens of the world. Just remove a round carton from the refrigerator, peel a small strip of paper, "whomp" it against the cabinet top, and you have instant ready-made biscuits.

Young brides and old bachelors can now take pride in baking bread. No more dirty pans, recipes, flour all over the cabinet and dread of the final outcome. Let us bow our heads and praise God for "whomp and bake."

Uncle Jack Aidridge, who for years ran a grocery store in Capitan, N.M., told of the old cowboys and ranchers filling their baskets with groceries and while checking out, looked around to see who was near and just before ringing up the total would lean forward and whisper, "Add a case of whomp biscuits. I'll pick them up back in the alley." Not one would admit they were using ready-made biscuits, for that just wasn't the cowboy way.

Whether you are a scratch, sourdough, or whomp biscuit fan, I think all will agree that down through the ages that biscuits have made the world a much better place to live.



Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" March 14 , 2004 column


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