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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Food

Haphazard biscuits now memories

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Watching 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 to visit.

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
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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