Under the table between the sturdy oak legs I could see it churning while myriads of motes danced around in sleepy beams of morning sunlight. For a full minute I sat there cross legged in the middle of Grandma Godwin's great kitchen floor, bare legs sticking to the pink flecked linoleum. It was a queer morning in high summer and about a gallon of raw cream I'd say was mixing it up in the churn. A modern appliance for the day where a bright red pump handle still filled the sink for doing dishes and such. Made out of glass and making butter, the cream moiled about to separate oily globules from the watery medium; it move back and forth swish swish pause swish swish in a simple hypnotic fashion tethered high upon the wall by a long black electrical cord. Rowdy snuffled and gobbled up breakfast crumbs finishing up with a fierce licking in my right ear. Already more than a dozen of my cousins had eaten and headed out to do chores or go exploring. Today was Wednesday and I was mighty curious; Cousin Ricky had asked Grandpa yesterday if the hornets in the barn did sting and Grandpa had told him so, Yes, but only on Tuesdays.
Get up offa' that floor! Grandma warned, and come help me here with these biscuits. She was on a second round of breakfasts for our bursting at the seams family, over forty cousins and aunts and uncles and what nots had shown up to see us just back from overseas. She pulled a small chair out and lifted me up on it to watch her make biscuits which Uncle JD would soon smother in sausage gravy and Cousin Greg grab them up hot and woo wee! clamor out these are hotter than a two dollar pistol!! and create impossible piles with thick slabs of country ham in between crusts of flaky bread, then have two more with pear preserves from the sky-high tree shading the north porch for dessert. So I stood there between the big black bellied wood stove and the icebox while I watched her make these melt in your mouth wonders with one eye on Ricky heading out to the barn and the other upon the enchanted candy dish. Grandma would flash a goofy smile and leave a fingerprint on my nose with her floured finger, all this happened, more or less, and I don't think I could have ever felt more loved.
She scooped out and sifted all these ingredients first:
Then she cut in 5 tablespoons of shortening
and by cutting in she meant to pinch and toss the mixture around with her fingers until it looked like coarse corn meal. But don't handle the mixture too long or the warmth from your hands will melt the shortening and the biscuits won't get as flaky.
On she went, singing Sweet rivers of redeeming love, adding one cup of buttermilk all at once, and stirred till the dough chased the fork around the bowl and whenever Ricky stopped his caterwaulln'in between the hornets, and stuffed up little girl giggles, gusts of wind seemed to carry on singing towards him as he cut a comical figure across the barnyard. She went right on, plopping out that dough on a floured cutting board and kneaded her soul right into it for a half minute or so; brushed it with melted shortening folded it over, cutting double biscuits and baked them on an ungreased cookie sheet in a very hot oven (450 º) for twelve to fifteen minutes.
Beyond a doubt on any day truth is a matter of the imagination, there's nothing like piping hot golden biscuits and no amount of innocent looks will stop a mass of angry hornets.
for Nollie Bell Godwin (1885-1971)