I remember waking on a cold Fall morning to the sound of symphonic rain on a tin roof. Long before there were weighted blankets, there were Momma’s hand-made quilts piled high in a frosty room. Oh, how I wanted to just lay there for just a little longer, but the ruler of my mornings had already sounded the getup alarm once before, “Harry, it’s time to get up!”.
The first warning was always ignored for just another minute of bliss. The second warning was most always the same, “Eggs ain’t good when they’re cold!” Begrudgingly, I would leave my quilted cocoon for the cold wood floors of our old un-insulated farmhouse.
After my needed trip to the toilet, I would wander into the kitchen with matted eyes and sprigged hair. On the table I would be greeted to a plate with two fried eggs as the main course and always with “yellars running” and the white edges fried to a crisp. I hated the crispy edges and I would cut them away with my fork. I never questioned the edges; my little naive mind assumed all fried eggs were so.
My Momma cooked on a gas stove with a cast iron skillet. She would get it almost smoking hot with a generous portion of hot grease. By the time she cracked the egg, it was half cooked, thus the crispy ring.
Always on the table were at least two of the three Southern favorites; sausage, bacon, or ham. Often one or two of the choices came from one of our hogs which we never named. Never name something you’re going to eat!
Butter, homemade blackberry jelly, sawmill gravy, and a slice of hoop cheese were common accompaniments to the fare.
My youthful sensitivity sometimes cringed at the crispy egg white edges, sometimes the sausage was Daddy-hot not child-mild, Momma’s blackberry jelly was often runny, or the ham too salty. But Momma’s biscuits were straight from the angel bakery in Heaven. That woman could cook some biscuits!
As I got older, I wished I had paid more attention to her technique. Well into my adult life after she had left the bounds of earth, I Googled a few old granny women cooking southern biscuits as I rewound my internal video tape of Momma making biscuits.
I faintly remember a big bowl of flour, a can of Crisco, and buttermilk. There were no measuring cups in her biscuit universe. The ingredients and her favorite bowl were fading memories, but Momma’s hands were chiseled into the folds of my brain.
Her hands were normal not large, yet not very feminine either. Momma’s hands were rough textured and sometimes cracked with dryness—”I am your son Momma, I have them too.” She bought “Family Lotion” from the Rayleigh Man who was also a beloved preacher, Bro. Putman. It helped a little.
Momma’s hands were the magic in her biscuits. She had a large bowl with White Lily self-rising flour into which she worked by hand a clump of Crisco shortening. This continual action of gradual incorporation of the shortening into the flour was without thought and was a muscle memory gained by the making of thousands of biscuits. As she worked the Crisco, so she worked the buttermilk until she had this beautiful round dough ball in the midst of her crater of flour.
Next was the mesmerizing part for my young eyes as she pinched a biscuit amount of dough from the ball and gingerly rolled it into a neat little ball with her floured hands. She placed it on a greased cooking pan and then (this is the part that stands out the most) she patted the small dough ball with the back of her fingers into a biscuit shape ready for the oven.
Ten minutes or so later, there was a hot biscuit that was worth its weight in silver.
I would walk a mile and pay a Benjamin for two more of her biscuits with some of her runny blackberry jelly and I would even eat a crispy-edged egg for the fun of it.
I credit my Momma for leading me to Jesus. She instilled her faith in me not by rote lessons but by a life lived in constant contact with her ever-present Savior who became mine.
I have some thoughts about Heaven, and I am sure there will be some eye-popping experiences when we get there. I would not be surprised to see my Momma making Jesus some biscuits with her now smooth hands. You know, He was good about breaking bread and Momma was good about making biscuits.
Proverbs 31:15, 28, 31 NKJV
(15) She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.
(28) Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
(31) Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt (aka: Frances Whitt’s baby boy)