I come from a long line of biscuit eaters. Ask anyone who grew up in the South, where the biscuit is considered its own food group, and you are likely to hear this. However, the eating of biscuits is not the activity in question (you can always find the eaters) but rather the making of biscuits. This is an art form in need of preservation since, like much good Southern lore, it is something that for the most part has been handed down in the oral tradition. You talk about how to make biscuits; you talk while you go through the steps of making them; and then you talk in between and all around eating them.
Some of my best memories are of being perched on my grandmother's kitchen counter, the tiny room bright with summer sunlight, while she mixed and kneaded and talked in a voice barely audible over the slap and roll of dough. I don't remember any cookbooks spread out on the counter. As a matter of fact, I remember her having only one cookbook, its spine broken and held together with a big rubber band, its pages stuffed with coupons. I think we assumed that all of her secrets were housed there and that she had simply memorized them for convenience. Well, she had them memorized, that's for sure, but there is no book anywhere that can teach what she had come to know after years of almost daily practice, starting as a girl growing up on a farm out in the middle of Robeson County, North Carolina. I have tried throughout my life to make biscuits that taste like the ones she made, but have never succeeded. Of course a good recipe helps, and you must start with the right ingredients, but I have come to believe that biscuits depend on the sense of touch more than anything else. Bill Neal, the late Southern chef I rely on to fill in the gaps of my memory, wrote that biscuits, "like all baking but more so, are in the hands, not the head."
I'm back in my grandmother's house now, a hot, melt-in-your-mouth biscuit in hand. I dip it in redeye gravy, pull it apart and lay a piece of salty fried country ham inside (this is not to be confused with regular ham of any variety). Or, while the steam still rises, I put a big pat of butter within and trap it there to melt. For dessert, I pour dark Karo syrup into a bowl and then whip in butter to make a smooth cinnamon-bronze sauce for dipping. Crème brûlée or tiramisu or what-have-you, there's no dessert that can match biscuits with Karo syrup. But however you slice it, you need that biscuit.