2021: L – April A to Z: Mama in Photos…
I’m back for my sixth year (2021)… can you believe it… of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and I’ve had quite a time in deciding on my “theme.” I had a few running through my head, but as I lost my mother last November, I thought I’d honor her through the many photographs I have of her… and tell the story of the photograph… as every photo has a story.
I’m fortunate that my mother had many photos of herself growing up… and I’m honoring her this year as the theme of my April A to Z… especially as was she was an April baby. Mama would have turned 91 this year… but she’s now back home celebrating this birthday with her parents and brother on the farm… where I believe she was always the happiest. The past few years my mother was fighting off dementia, while still managing to live alone until the last couple months of her life. I miss her every day… thinking of her daily and remembering all she did for me. She was the storyteller… She supplied me with my stories… and it’s because of her, that I write!
L… Look, Mama makes Biscuits
Mama made the best biscuits… and when watching her… she always made it look so easy… but it wasn’t in the beginning!
Whenever we arrived at mama’s… we knew that biscuits would be served at the breakfast table… and we couldn’t wait for breakfast. Mama would have crispy bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and… biscuits! It often became a fight at the end of breakfast for the last one… but it was usually my son who won that battle! He always made sure there were no leftovers on the biscuit pan.
Mama made biscuits just like her mother… there was no rolling out… and there were no cutters… biscuits made with just her two hands. The biscuit dough went directly from her bread bowl to the biscuit pan… and for the longest, I thought that was the only way you made biscuits! It took me a couple weeks to master her technique, but not quite entirely as she made them… but if I do say so… I make a pretty good biscuit! Mama’s biscuits were never rolled out, but instead, a small amount of dough was pinched off… rolled slowly in her hands into a ball… then laid on the old darkened baking sheet… and finally pressing down lightly with her fingers… hence the imprints on the biscuits you see.
The one thing I never liked in mixing the butter into the milk and flour was that your fingers were covered with sticky dough… but mama never minded. She just stopped… scraped off the dough and kept going. Me, I use a fork for the beginning part before diving in with my hands. Maybe the secret key was… to just plow on and eventually the sticky would disappear.
The summer I decided that I was going to finally learn how… was not at mama’s… I was too intimidated to try in front of the master! Upon returning home, I made biscuits every day for almost two weeks, until I finally felt as if I had mastered the art of biscuits 101! It took that long, because if I’d waited too far inbetween, I would have forgotten the feel of the dough that I needed to learn. That’s why our grandmothers didn’t cook with recipes… they knew what the final product would feel or taste like… and that’s how they cooked. My grandmother certainly had no written recipes… and mama said, “my mother probably didn’t even know what a recipe was, she just knew how to cook… and was one of the best cooks around. Everyone wanted to put their feet under her table for Sunday dinner. I didn’t like all the family coming, as it often meant not much left over for the kids, as the adults ate first. One Sunday, I snuck in mama’s kitchen and hid a chicken breast in the cupboard… and I got a switching for it, but I ate a piece of mama’s chicken that day… it was worth it.”
The one thing I could never master, and maybe just didn’t want to, was the art of making the biscuit dough in the actual bread bowl… directly on top of the flour. Are you confused yet! Mama first scooped up the top flour and sifted… throwing out any hard particles left over from previous biscuit making. Then she proceeded to make a well in the flour while patting down the flour to make it more dense… then adding softened butter and milk. She had no measurements to tell me… a pinch of this, enough liquid to stir and blend into the flour… and stop when the dough feels soft to the touch. Did you get all that?? It took me years before I braved to make biscuits, but I felt confident as mama said, “the first time I made biscuits, you could have fought a war with them.” I didn’t feel so bad then, as if she started out that bad… and ended up this good… well, I felt like I had a chance to succeed!
Mama even dressed with earrings as she makes biscuits!
I took this photo many years ago with my film camera… hence the working motion didn’t capture well, but the motion tells the story. Mama mixed her biscuit dough with only her hands… telling me you need to feel the texture of the dough… it needs to be all worked together, but the dough should be soft to the feel. If it’s soft, you’ve mixed all the ingredients with the correct amounts… if the dough feels thick and hard… well guess what… your biscuits will taste the same! Not all of mine have been perfect, but once I learned the feel of the dough, that gave me my knowledge and what I needed to know to finally be able to make a biscuit that was as close to mama’s as I could get. Click HERE for photos of my biscuits and baking.
Mama’s bread bowl grew in later years with this large bucket that held her five pound of flour, plus giving her room to work. The small yellow cup was what she used for measuring… and it sits in my cabinet today. I still reach for it to use even though I know it measures a 2/3 of a cup. Sometimes you feel jinxed when you don’t use certain things. Mama’s old blackened cooking pan cooked the best biscuits… not sure what happened to it.
So many memories flood back in viewing this photo… Mama’s “Minnie Pearl” hat hanging on the door (I’ll tell you in another post), the new “high” table and stools I hated, seeing many of mama’s “chatzies” in the background, all the plastic tubs she saved from the chocolate ice cream she ate every night, and those bacon, eggs, and biscuits are making me so hungry right now. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wish myself back at this table… just one more time… and I wouldn’t even complain about sitting on those high stools!
One of my favorite ways to eat a biscuit after finishing my eggs, was to dunk the biscuit in a mixture of butter and syrup… place a dollop of soft butter on your plate, then pour syrup over it… mixing into a semi-thick paste with your fork… then dunk your biscuit in… yummm! It quickly became a hit with my son… no biscuit went to waste with us. She always tried to make a few more each time… but no matter how many she made… there was never enough! I don’t think we ever ate lunch on those big breakfast days… it was enough fuel to last us till dinner… unless we passed a BBQ place… and then we wanted a sandwich! No sooner was breakfast over… we were headed out somewhere… we never stayed in the house… as mama would say… “we were in the road all day.“
Thank You for the memories Mama!
My previous years of A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
- 2020: A to Z Family Stories… writing the stories of my husband’s family.
For more A to Z of Mama in Photos… click HERE!
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