by Delbert Trew
Aunt Ruby Wilkinson make biscuits provided more entertainment than
seeing a three-ring circus. The Wilkinson Ranch, located near Gladstone,
N.M., became a favorite place to stop when we traveled to the west.
There was no way to warn them we were coming as they had no phone
and picked up their mail only once a week at best. Visitors drove
up, knocked on the door and knew instantly they were welcome. Whether
guests were arriving or departing, Aunt Ruby always cried.
After the initial greeting, hugging and crying, Uncle Warren headed
for the garden or the cellar, depending on the time of year. Everyone
helped clean fresh vegetables or opened fruit jars containing canned
product. Once the menu was on the stove, the main event began when
Aunt Ruby mixed the biscuits. We sat at a small table and watched.
For whatever reason, every ingredient needed for biscuits seemed to
be stored across the kitchen from the other items. The old round-bottom,
blue-spatter mixing bowl came from under the cabinet at one end of
the kitchen with the mixing spoon coming from a drawer at the opposite
end. The flour was located to the right side and the baking soda came
off a shelf on the left wall. Lard was by the cook stove while salt
stood in a shaker on the table.
No single ingredient was measured. The amounts were dumped unceremoniously
into the mixing pan without hesitation while Ruby talked nonstop about
the kids and neighbors. A pinch here, a dab there, quick stirs and
out onto the flour-covered bread board. A black-as-the-ace-of-spades
bread pan melted lard in which the raw biscuits were coated before
placing the full pan in a warm place on the stove.
The other entrees received the same treatment. A spoonful of butter
here, a dab of salt there, two dabs of pepper over there and some
bacon left over from breakfast were crumpled into another pan. Suddenly,
the pan of biscuits disappeared into the oven. Without the benefit
of a single kitchen timer, or a clock on the wall, all food finished
at the same time.
After returning thanks, especially for the unexpected guests, we passed
the haphazard biscuits around. Each had a golden crust on bottom,
a lesser crust on top and the beautiful texture of perfection in between.
After placing a thick slab of homemade butter in the middle of each
biscuit, we filled our plates with the other bounty provided.
I would venture a guess that every family has or had an Aunt Ruby.
They were staunch pioneers making do with whatever lay at hand. They
did not travel much and were genuinely happy to have company come
In the old days recipes were not needed as the raw materials for cooking
were limited. Measuring was not necessary when the same ingredients
were used daily. Cooking expertise came from cooking for large, hard-working
families with huge appetites.
Aunt Ruby and her haphazard biscuits are gone now but not forgotten.
Those kitchen memories will always come to mind any time someone passes
me a plate of biscuits.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" Column
July 4, 2006 Column