The Importance of Biscuits
© 2012, C. D. Bonner, all rights reserved
Biscuits were not just a side dish growing up–they were a staple. My mother smiled and hummed while she stoked the little wood stove at four in the morning as my brother Jake and I sang our “I Want a Biscuit” song until those hard-crust delights were laid out on the table. They weren’t the fluffy kind from the breakfast bar. They were lumpy cathead biscuits made from lard and Gold Medal flour (no cats were actually harmed in the making of these biscuits). There were wonderful, but it’s possible to love something too much.
They were laid out on the kitchen table with respect, the way people used to lay out their dead relatives on the their kitchen table for their wake. They would sit up all night drinking and etching their memories like scrimshaw by retelling all the funny things the deceased had been involved in.
Mother would take a stick of margarine out of the little round-topped fridge, and butter half of them while they were still too hot to eat. There would be buttered biscuits, sugar-dipped biscuits, biscuits with sorghum syrup, and biscuits with either Red-eye or Sawmill gravy. Maybe once a week, eggs or thick streak-o-lean bacon accompanied the biscuits to the table, like company from out of town.
When I was three, we moved from the little house in Stockbridge into low-income apartments on the edge of Atlanta, where my brother started school. On his third or fourth day, Mother was running far behind in her routine and the biscuits weren’t ready. I was protesting loudly that I wanted a biscuit. On his way out the door, Jake pointed at the white porcelain outside doorknob, telling me “there is your biscuit,” as he made a dash for the big flat-nosed yellow bus.
My muffled cries could not be heard through the thick wood. I pounded on the door. Mother shoved the door open, nearly taking my teeth and jawbone with it. “Stop fooling around!” was all she said before yanking the door closed again, jamming my nose hard into the wood door.
She eventually missed me, and opened the door again, gently. This time I made wild gesticulations with my muffled protests. When she saw that I had the doorknob stuck in my teeth, she went into a full mother’s panic. She tried prying my mouth open, but to no avail. It was chilly, but not cold that autumn morning. Spittle drooled down my chin, and I got mad at my brother. I was calm and patient, but I didn’t know what to do. I tried prying my jaws off the door with my own hands, but the doorknob was larger than my mouth, and it only made my jaws ache even more. At least the doorknob was low, though I had to stand up on my toes off and on to remain comfortable.
Mother disappeared for a bit, and it was quiet until a policeman arrived in a car with its cherry light spinning but sparing us the embarrassment of the siren. I couldn’t see the car, but I could see the flashing light reflected upon the door, which was all I had seen in a very long time. A couple of neighbors had joined the audience by this time, clucking and talking in hushed tones. The policeman surveyed the situation seriously. He tried prying. He considered taking the knob off the door. He called for the assistance of a fireman. The fireman told Mother he could unhinge my mouth, but it might break my jaw. She gave a worried nod, and he dug his thumbs into the corners of my jaws, pushing down, hard, and I fell free of the doorknob. I wiped the spittle off, and thanked him as best I could with a mouth numb from too much “biscuit.”
That was the second-hardest biscuit I would ever have at my Mother’s house.