Our cans were all silver in colour, but Bryan has been a popular brand all my life.
We’ve been mentioning biscuits-for-breakfast as the weather cools once more into the Cozy-up, Gathering-in season of Fall.
I do think I must have been born under the sign of the lard can, for we had one in both of the houses of my childhood, and their twin resided under the kitchen cabinet of Ma, who was my first Mother-In-Law, and Grandmother of my three children. They were called Maw and Paw by the GRANDS, then all of us, but signed cards and letters "Ma and Pa." That woman was just an angel on this Earth.We lived right there on the yard with them on the farm home-place, and she had the exact silver can under her own kitchen counter, right down to the big circled “HF” imprinted in the lid. She had a bowl and sifter in hers, as well, and contrary to my Mother’s fastidious spooning and measuring and stirring, Ma made biscuits BY hand and WITH her hand. She, too, put twice-too-much flour into the bowl, made the crater by banking it against the sides with her fingers, and then three-fingered a clop of Crisco out of the three-pound can.
Her busy little soft hands were quick as lightning, working that flour into the handful, fingertips busily rubbing, til the “peas” stage. I don’t think she measured the buttermilk, either, but just poured from the BIG crockery pitcher, lifting it with a big sigh, and then I’d clean the white clotty handprint off the handle with a wet dishrag before replacing it in the refrigerator. She also made the buttermilk in a big crock, which somehow took up most of the left side of the refrigerator, possibly a gallon’s worth. Dried milk, water, a cup of last week’s making, overnight on the kitchen counter with a neat tea-towel cover, and voila!! Good as a fresh-churned batch.
I loved to watch her hand squish that biscuit dough; at first the buttermilk shot through her quick fingers like soapsuds, then as the flour absorbed some of it, the dough became a heavy, pliable mass, with the flour worked in from the sides til it was to her liking---a quite wet dough which would seek to escape from her two hands when she lifted it from the bed of flour like a limp cat.
Onto a flourcloth it went, the cloth homemade from newbought Curity diapers, each sewn double for strength, and covered in a thick layer of flour. Several lifts of the four cloth edges in turn, to even up the dough and give it a thorough coating, then pinches quickly rolled through floury palms, placed gently into a Crisco-rubbed skillet, with a final two-knuckled salute to the top, making twin dimples to hold the pools of brushed-on melted butter. The cloth also went back into the bin after use, its dusty weight settling into the dark to await its next needing.
All our biscuits were different, all good, all crusty and golden and steamy-soft within. Ma’s had a crispy bottom crust, beloved by Pa, who would separate several biscuits with a quick twist, butter them BEFORE we said the blessing, then sometimes distribute the dripping top halves to the little ones, while he applied a liberal dousing of sorghum or pear preserves to the cookie-crisp, butter-saturated bottoms. For Pa, life was simple: gravy went on the soft, spongy top halves, syrup on the bottoms.
Ohhhh, that all our paths could be so easily chosen.