Biscuits Conquer All

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I love few things as much as biscuits and my friend Peggy Pierrepont, and they all come together in Regina Charboneau's introductory post.

Natchez, Regina points out fairly convincingly, is the center of the universe. I've certainly had great food when I've visited Peggy--and though I hadn't met Regina until recently (and in Monterey yet), I had long heard tales and had tasted her biscuits. As she writes, she always cooks buffets and sends friends home with the leftovers, and on one visit, surveying leftovers she'd sent home with Peggy, I dove for the sole remaining biscuit without so much as asking if anyone else might want it.

It was a different biscuit from the ones I'd learned from the Queen of Biscuits, Shirley Corriher, whose grandmother's "touch of grace" biscuits inspired one of my first pieces for The Atlantic, on pie crust, and a more recent one on scones, which require a similarly delicate technique of combining fat and flour. Corriher makes a dough so wet you have to juggle balls of it lightly in flour, aiming to handle it and add as little flour as possible. The whole process, which she describes in her masterly CookWise, is something of a feat. And a worthwhile one.

I get the sense that the biscuit queens of Natchez, who have no intention of ceding their title as biscuit capital of the world (Regina is just a bit competitive, as the piece from the local paper implies), are a bit more relaxed about their technique. The ratio of fat to flour in Regina's recipe is sufficiently high that the biscuits will be tender; I recall the stains on the paper I greedily unwrapped on Peggy's counter. And don't substitute margarine for butter, which, this being Natchez, there's plenty of too. Margarine is easier and more forgiving to work. This is a good recipe for a first-time biscuit maker, and once you get the addiction you'll keep practicing.

And watch for more Regina recipes. She's as great a cook as she is a person--and that might be the true secret to Natchez's center-of-universe status.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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