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No Honey Needed

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No Honey Needed

By: Stephen Bishop

After a few years of writing a monthly humor article for a beekeeping magazine, you begin to exhaust your ability to generate material, and you have to rent a heavy-duty excavator to dig up ideas with even the most tenuous connection to apiculture. And then sometimes you still can’t think of anything. Hence, I have decided to write about buttermilk biscuits, not because my grandma’s biscuits needed doctoring with a drizzle of honey, but because they didn’t. Her biscuits were pure goodness, which trumps pure honey by many degrees of pureness.

Truly, it would have been a grievous insult to apply a viscous substance to my grandma’s biscuits. Although she always asked if anybody wanted honey or jam, nobody dared answer in the affirmative for fear of disinheritance. Plus, the biscuits needed nothing—they were appetizer, entree and dessert all in one. I must have watched my grandma make biscuits hundreds of times, but the exact process remains shrouded in my memory. I never remember her using measuring instruments of any sort. Instead, a wooden bowl, a flour sifter and an old blackened biscuit pan were the tools of her sorcery, while her main ingredients were buttermilk, self-rising flour, hunks of Crisco and lots of love.

In an age when Pop-Tarts were already invented, when it would have been easy to plop a mass-produced puck on a plate, she arose early to conjure up biscuits from scratch. And it wasn’t just breakfast. Biscuits were an anytime food, served up whenever someone needed nourishment, physically or spiritually.

When my grandma passed away ten years ago, my mom became keeper of my grandma’s buttermilk biscuit recipe and wielder of her blackened biscuit pan. My mom loves me unconditionally—I know this because I accidentally threw away the old biscuit pan and she didn’t commit filicide (the formal word for offing one’s offspring).

The problem was my mom traveled with the pan. Her biggest fear, besides snakes, was being caught off-guard with an unfamiliar pan of unknown cooking properties. “Cooking in a strange oven is hard enough,” she said. With a waxy patina from decades of Crisco applications, my grandma’s old biscuit pan was tried and true.

At least it was before I threw it in a trash compactor.

Usually, I’m not one to destroy a priceless family heirloom, but my parents were visiting us one weekend and my mom had packed the pan in a cardboard box. She set the box right beside the kitchen door, which also happened to be right beside our kitchen trash can, in the same spot I normally stack overflow trash that needs to be hauled to the dump. I just assumed that box was full of overflow trash and put it on the back of the truck. Now my grandma’s biscuit pan resides somewhere in the Cleveland County landfill, with seagulls flying gracefully overhead.

My mom thought I was kidding when I told her I had thrown that box away. When she realized I wasn’t, a look of panic momentarily washed over her face before she quickly regained control of her facial expression and resisted the instinct to murder her son.

“Oh, well, it’s only a pan,” she said.

But I felt terrible. That biscuit pan was a symbol of all that was right and true and honorable in the world. Sure, the biscuits it produced probably contributed to the family’s cholesterol problems, but that’s a small price to pay for having maternal superheroes in your family who laugh in the face of adversity and fight the world’s evils with one pan of buttermilk biscuits at a time—indeed, with biscuits so good they need no honey.

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