Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Making biscuits

When I left the D.C. area after graduate school, I found myself in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. I didn't realize it fully at the time, but it was exactly what I needed. A quiet place to live out the summer. Free from traffic and busyness. After two years of living in a city that moved constantly, it was a relief to spend time in a place where I didn't have to leave the house if I didn't want to. No sitting in traffic trying not to be late to the next thing. No helicopters flying overhead at night. No horns or sirens. And for a while, at least, it was just the dogs, the birds, and me.

One thing I remember most was watching my friend make biscuits. She'd say, "Shelby, do you want biscuits this morning?" And in no time at all biscuits would appear. Like it was the easiest thing in the world to make a batch of biscuits for breakfast. As if everyone ate biscuits straight from the oven every day of their life. I was in awe. 

Mama's a southerner, and she did her duty and taught me how to make biscuits. But it's always been an ordeal. Get the ingredients. Dig out the recipe. Roll the dough. Spill flour all over the kitchen. And all these years later, I'm still trying to figure out the trick to get my biscuits to rise as high as Mama's. 

Last spring, Mama and I drove through Kentucky on a road trip. We had a tight deadline. I needed to be at the Nashville airport that day. I very nearly missed that flight. But we took a detour anyway. We stopped in Berea. And even if you don't know anything about the town, take a simple drive through the historic neighborhoods and you will learn this is a town of that values craftsmanship and the arts. On every street are shops selling locally made products. I wanted to stay there forever. 

Mama always uses a drinking glass to cut her biscuits. I have done that too, but I also have those fancy metal biscuit cutters that come in half a dozen sizes all nested together in their own container. But since this spring, I use something else to cut my biscuits. That day in Kentucky, on our drive-through visit, I bought a wooden biscuit cutter. My souvenir from a whirlwind trip. And my inspiration to learn how to whip up biscuits for breakfast or dinner like it's no thing at all. To learn how to make biscuits that rise a mile high like Mama can. 

That summer in Tennessee was over too quickly. The need to get a job and do all the responsible things a college graduate ought, outweighed all the desires soak in the slow pace of that place in the middle of nowhere. But sometimes, I need to remember that a slow life is as much a good life as one marked by accomplishments and big events. And sometimes in a life that feels too much like an ordeal, all it takes is a little flour and a wooden biscuit cutter to remember that any day is a good day to slow down and make biscuits.  


  1. Shelby, it's been awhile since you posted this but it's the first time I've read it. And I needed to read it today as everything is feeling hectic and out of control. I so want to incorporate that slow life into my every day and maybe with one step at a time I will. (Also, that wooden biscuit cutter is beautiful!)

    1. Thank you, Nike. I'm humbled that any words I write might speak to someone else's heart. I still can't make biscuits the way Mama does, even with that biscuit cutter. I am even now the proud owner of an actual rolling pin after years spent improvising with drinking glasses and wine bottles. I'll be praying that in the midst of the chaos of life, you are able to find some of that quiet and that peace you seek.