Biscuits Conquer All

By Corby Kummer

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/07/biscuits-conquer-all/22050/