June 10, 2009

Hockey Pucks

One man was selling his surplus games….thousands of them. 2009.

Himself: It’s hard to work in the gloom. Asked me to make a favorite casserole for a pot luck today.

Herself: School…where I found myself a ringer, came home and cooked. Did not walk. Today: Swim, clean with Marta, write.

Reading: Dresden #6. These last two have been very good. I’m not tiring of the series.

Balance: Sitting by the bay for half an hour in quiet; having a car suddenly burst into flames and the fire department taking forever to come. Ying and Yang indeed.

There were four of us girls, for there were no boys in that class in the 1950’s, carefully measuring flour, butter, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. We wiggled our fingers in the butter making it into tiny little balls in the flour. Did I pour in too much milk in mine? Did I handle the biscuits too much? Invariably my biscuits were small, flat, and inedibly tough.

Over the years, my baking powder biscuits did not improve. I figured after hundreds of attempts that I was not culturally attuned to making biscuits, but I didn’t give up. Periodically I would attempt a new recipe for biscuits out of a new cook book, and invariably they would be flat and tough. Something in me craved homemade biscuits, so every few years I would try again. I’d try mother’s cookbook…keeping in mind that mother was a terrible cook. I’d try grandma’s cookbook….keeping in mind that grandma hated to cook. I’d try a little of this or that, and still those poor biscuits laid their on our plates looking and acting like hockey pucks.

A few weeks ago, I picked up “Beard on Bread” at the swapmeet. All week I’ve been meaning to make biscuits from this cookbook. Finally yesterday, knee deep in ruining rice, I began James Beard’s biscuit recipe.

As usual, I followed the instructions very carefully. I measured with precision….which I had loused up in some manner while measuring the water for the rice, and I broke up the butter into the flour with a degree of steadfastness while keeping in mind the rule, “don’t handle too much.” I wanted a “soft dough,” Beard told me, so I added milk until the flour was squishy rather than a round hard ball. Laughing at myself too.

“Knead for one minute,” the book says. I didn’t. I confess. I didn’t do this for the whole 60 seconds. My wrist hurt and I gave it up tho I remembered how. It’s just like wedging clay. So, I kneaded for 30 seconds tho and was proud of myself.

Now here is where Mr. Beard and all others differ in their instructions. He actually tells us all how close to put the biscuits on the sheet for soft or for crisp. Amazing. He says to the quarter inch….can you imagine him measuring and dictating the results to a fellow cook, how thick to pat out the dough and the results we will get.

I wanted tall, fat, golden brown, tender biscuits. I patted them out almost an inch thick, and after their 12 minutes in the oven, they came out as towering, fat, golden brown biscuits. Oh perfection.

I left them to cool while G walked along the bay and we stayed to ogle a burning car. We came home, and G reheated them for 45 seconds in the microwave. By the time I got to them, they were tall, fat, golden brown, tough biscuits. Tall, fat hockey pucks, actually.

I guess I’ll try again later.


  1. It takes really good writing to make an account of biscuit making exciting. You did it!

  2. Now I want a biscuit with butter and bosenberry jam! My gramma always made drop ones from a bisquick recipe.

  3. I think the secret is getting the right ratio of fat (butter in my case) to milk and not handling too much. Sometimes mine are good; sometimes not! But 20th century was right--good accounting in your write up! So what if they're too hard?! (thick) Soda crackers, anyone?

  4. Oh, you all are such dears to leave me these delightful notes. Thank you.


What a delight to get a note from you. Thanks for leaving one.


Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...