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.
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.
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
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
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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