Urban Dictionary characterizes “Southern” as “Anything pertaining to the American South. (Includes things such as fried chicken, sweet tea, and anything with a confederate flag.) A person who is described as southern is usually polite, courteous, respectful, moral, opinionated, determined, confident, witty, and likes to laugh and have a good time. They are usually born and raised in the American South.”
I can claim about 40% of a Southern identity. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, I lived in Florida with dad from age 3 to age 8, and was effectively disconnected from my tea-drinkin’, slow-talkin’, porch-sittin’ roots. He told me that when I first moved to the beach my molasses-thick accent was nigh-unintelligible.
Now, I have what I consider an “international American” accent that is flat and clear thanks to a diverse Suburban high school and wide-world travel. I will admit though that around family, I am known to break out the “ain’ts” and “fers.”
Nonetheless, Southern music, food, and hospitality all run deep through my family’s past, cut with some good ole’ fashioned feuding and drinking.
It’s always been around me, but it hasn’t really been apart of me. Granny still puts 2 cups of sugar in her sweet tea but I don’t drink it, football is still watched during family get-togethers but I prefer hanging out in the kitchen, and you surely won’t find a religious bumper sticker or confederate flag on my pick-up (especially since I own a VW sedan).
Anyway, there are many aspects of Southern culture–such as open friendliness–that I love and appropriate no matter where I live. One of the most important is from-scratch buttermilk biscuits. My great-grandmother used to make them every morning, and until two days ago, I had never made them myself. For shame!
I spent a wonderfully wine-soaked and gourmet weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina with my dear friend, Lauren, and she taught me how to make these delectable morsels. I’ll share the secret with you:
1. Tools of the trade: a) biscuit cutter. b) following her grandma’s instructions, Lauren keeps a special cloth for biscuit-making. It makes for easy clean-up since she just shakes it out and rolls it up afterward. c) a pair of loving hands.
2. Cheap and easy ingredients: a) deliciously tangy buttermilk. b) Crisco. c) White Lily Flour (I’ve been told the brand does matter!). d) butter. Lauren doesn’t measure her ingredients–proof that she’s a true master–but I’ve used the measurements provided by the White Lily recipe as a starting point. She emphasizes that you’re working toward a certain consistency, and you should feel free to add more flour or buttermilk as necessary.
Part 1: a) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. b) add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl of your choice. c) cut in 1/4 cup Crisco until you have a crumbly mixture. d) add 2/3 – 3/4 cups of buttermilk and stir with a fork until the flour starts to leave the side of the bowl.
Part 2: The above image is the look you’re going for.
Part 3: Drop your dough onto a lightly-floured surface and knead gently (maybe 10-12 times) until it holds together.
Part 4: Roll out dough, aiming for a 1/2 inch thickness (no need for rulers, this isn’t a science project).
Part 5: Add gloriously golden pats of butter, fold over, and roll once more.
Part 6: Armed with your biscuit-cutter, bite straight-down without twisting. Once you’ve punctured your dough, roll it out and cut again.
Part 7: Add sun-tan lotion, a.k.a. melted butter. Cook for around 8 minutes, but keep your eyeballs peeled to ensure proper browning and not burning.
Part 8: Serve with homemade marmalade, butter, bacon, or gravy for the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
Here’s a video if you’d like to get anal about it. Just remember that careful measuring and arguing over details is not the down-home method.