Dilsey, William Faulkner and Southern Biscuits

Spring has sprung in the South! Copyrights incl.electr. Culinary Roos 2016

Spring has sprung in the Deep South! Copyrights incl. electr. Culinary Roots 2016


…Dilsey answered and ceased clattering the stove, but before she could cross the kitchen Mrs. Compson called her again, and before she crossed the dining room and brought her head into relief against the gray splash of the window, still again…”All right,” Dilsey said. “All right, here it is. I will fill hit soon ez I git some hot water…” She gathered up her skirts and mounted the stairs, wholly blotting the grey light. “Put hit down dar en g’awn back to bed…”
She entered the kitchen and built up a fire and began prepare breakfast. In the midst of this she ceased and went to the window and looked out toward her cabin, then she went to the door and opened it and shouted into the driving weather. “Luster!” she shouted, standing to listen, tilting her face from the wind, ” You, Luster?” She listened, then as she prepared to shout again Luster appeared around the corner of the kitchen. “Ma’am?” he said innocently, sp innocently that Dilsey looked down at him, for a moment motionless, with something more than a mere surprise. “Whar you at?” she said. “Nowhere,” he said. “Jes in de cellar.” “Whut you doin in de cellar?” she said. “Dont stand darin the rain, fool,” she said. “Aint doin nothin,” he said. He came up the steps. Dont you dare come in dis do widout a armful of wood,” she said. “Here I done had had to tote yo wood en build yo fire befo. Did’t I tole you not to leave dis place last night befo dat woodbox was full to de top?” “I did,” Luster said. “I filled hit.””Whar hit gone to, den?” “I dont know’m. I aint teched hit.” “Well, you git hit full up now,” she said. ” And git on up den en see bout Benjy.”…(p. 209)

Dilsey prepared to make biscuit. As she ground the sifter steadily above the bread board, she sang, to herself at first, something without particular tune or words, repetitive, mournful and plaintive, austere, as she ground a faint, steady snowing of flour onto the bread board. The stove had begun to heat the room and to fill it with murmurous minors of fire, and presently she was singing louder, as if her voice had been thawed out by the growing warmth, and then Mrs. Compson called her name again from within the house. Dilsey raised her face as if her eyes could and did penetrate the walls and ceiling and saw the old woman in her quilted dressing gown at the head of the stairs, calling her name with machine-like regularity.” Oh, Lawd,” Dilsey said. She set the sifter down and swept up the hem of her apron and wiped her hands and caught up the bottle from the chair on which she had laid it and gathered her apron about the handle of the kettle which was now jetting faintly, ” jes, a minute,” she called , ” De water jes dis minute got hot.”…(p.210)

She returned to the kitchen. She looked into the stove, then she drew her apron over her head and donned the overcoat and opened the outer door and looked up and down the yard. The weather drove upon her flesh, harsh and minute, but the scene was empty of all else that moved. She descended the steps, gingerly, as if for silence, and went around the corner of the kitchen. As she did so Luster emerged quickly and innocently from the cellar door…”…You git on up dar en see to Benjy, you hear?” “Yessum,” Luster said. He went toward the kitchen steps swiftly. “Here,” Dilsey said, ” You git me another armful of wood while I got you.” “Yessum, ” he said. He passed her on the steps and went to the woodpile…Dilsey opened the door and guided him across the kitchen with a firm hand… (p.212).

Dilsey put some more wood in the stove and returned to the bread board. Presently she bagan to sing again. The room grew warmer. Soon Dilsey’s skin had taken a rich lustrous quality as compared with that as of a faint dusting of wood ashes which bot it and Luster’s had worn, as she moved about the kitchen, gathering about her the raw materials of food, coordinating the meal.On the wall above a cupboard, invisible save at night, by lamp light and ven then evincing an enigmatic profundity because it had but one hand, a cabinet clock ticked…”Eight oclock,” Dilsey said. She ceased and tilted her head upward, listening. But there was no sound save the clock and the fire. She opened the oven and looked at the pan of bread , then heard the feet cross the dining room…(p. 213)…(from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, April Eight 1928; Random House, New York 1929-1956)

Southern Biscuits - Copyrights incl. electr. Culinary Roots 2016

Southern Biscuits – Copyrights incl. electr. Culinary Roots 2016


Born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897, William Cuthbert Falkner, later celebrated as William “Faulkner,” is undoubtedly a giant of North American literature. For those who love the Deep South as I do the writer is also THE VOICE of the region with its complex personality and its racial “demons.” He is a “Southerner” who describes the soul of the South; who tackles race openly without fear to reflect not only local sins but also the people’s pride, their generosity whether they black or white. Novelist, poet, playwright, author of literary pieces, such as The Sound and the Fury, Absalom!Absalom!, The Reivers, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner was awarded in 1949 the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1955 and 1963 William received also the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. With exception to temporary  movie script visits to California the writer lived in Mississippi where he died on July 6, 1962 at the age of 64.

Magnolia - Mississippi's State Flower

Magnolia – Mississippi’s State Flower

Beaten and fluffy raised biscuits have been, and are still today, a classic breakfast bread favorite of the South. Dilsey’s biscuits were probably beaten with a wooden mallet which, may be had been relegated to the cellar, where Benji used to play with it because it was old and worn after thirty years of use (Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury p. 223).

There are many southern recipes on how to make the bread specialty. Among the ancient recipes are those used by Mrs. Marta Washington, wife of George Washington (1789-1797), who in 1799 passed her recipe manuscript to her granddaughter Eleonor Parke Custis on the occasion of Eleonor Parke Custis’ s marriage to Lawrence Lewis. Old recipes are also those by Mrs. Mary Randolph who, besides being a boarding house keeper, was also related to Thomas Jefferson (1797-1801).
Marta Washington’s” bisket” recipes had been in the First Lady’s keeping since her first marriage to Daniel Custis in 1749. Mrs. Randolph’s recipes included in her cook book (The Virginia Housewife or Methodical Cook) became known after they were published in Baltimore by Pliskitt & Cugle in 1824. Mrs. Randolph, a resident of Virginia, was 62 years old when her cookbook was published.

To a pound of flower take a pound of sugar, 6 youlks of eggs, 8 whites, beat ym 2 hours before you strow in ye flower, & then beat ym 2 hours longer. Yn put in 1 ounce of anny [anise] seeds. A few coriander seeds, 2 greynes of musk. [put it in?] to yr pans & bake them in an oven no [not too hot].

TO MAKE ” BISKETS” ACCORDING TO FIRST LADY MRS. MARTA WASHINGTON (1749 -1799) – p. 337 recipe number 177
Take a pound of fine flower of wheat, A pound of sugar, 4 whites of eggs & 8 youlks, & 4 spoonfuls of rosewater, ye longer you beat it ye better it will be, then put to it eyther annyseeds or caraway seeds or coriander seeds, you must beat it till it will bubble, then poure it into your plates, then take some sugar finely beaten & a little flower, which you must put in a piece of tiffany [a fine fabric which can be substituted by a fine meshed sieve] (yr sugar must be thrice as much as your flower) & with this dust your plates of bisket before they are set into the oven (Marta Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats – transcribed by Karen Hess and published by Columbia University Press New York between 1981-1995).

Deep in the South - Copyrights incl. electronic Culinary Roots 2016

The South and its angels – Copyrights incl. electronic Culinary Roots 2016

When you find the barrel of flour a good one, empty it into a chest or box, made for the purpose, with a lid that will shut close; it keeps much better in this manner than when packed in a barrel, and even improves by lying lightly; sift the quantity you intend to make up – put into a bowl two gills and a half of water for each quart, with a teaspoon heaped up with salt, and a large spoonful of yeast for each quart; stir this mixture well, put into another bowl a handful of flour from every quart; pour a little of the mixture on to wet it, then more, until you get it all in, taking great care that it be smooth, and quite free from lumps; beat it some minutes, take one third of the flour out of the kettle, pour on the batter, and sprinkle over it the dry four; stop the kettle, and set it where it can have a moderate degree of warmth; when it has risen well, turn it into the bowl, mix in the dry flour, and knead it on the board till it looks quite light; return it to the kettle, and place it where it can have proper heat; in the morning, take the dry crust carefully from the top, put the dough on a board, knead it well, make it into rolls, set them on tin sheets, put a towel over, and let them stand near the fire till the oven is ready. In winter, make the bread up at three o’ clock, and it will be ready to work before bed time. In summer, make it up at five o’ clock. A quart of flour should weigh just one pound and a quarter. The bread must be rasped when baked.

Run a large spoonful of butter into a quart of risen dough, knead it well, and make it into biscuits, either thick or thin: bake them quickly (The Virginia Housewife or Methodical Cook – Published by Plskitt & Cugle 218 Market Street – Special Contents Copyright 1984 by Oxmoor House Inc. P. Obo 2262 Birmingham Alabama 35201- Advisory Board: Chef Szathmary, Irwin Glusker, Jean Wickstrom, Jan Longone and Barbara Pickett)

Southern Dogwood - Copyrights incl. electronic - Culinary Roots 2016.

Southern Dogwood – Copyrights incl. electronic – Culinary Roots 2016.

Recipes on how to prepare the fluffy and raised southern biscuits are also included in later collections gathered by other southern ladies, such as Sarah Rutledge, daughter of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer of the American Declaration of Independence (4th July 1776), who later saw her recipes published in 1847 in the collection called “The Carolina Housewife by a Lady of Charleston” and Georgia resident, cook book author and recipe tester, Shirley Corriher who gathered her culinary experience in a very useful cook book titled ” The Secrets of Cooking Revealed – CookWise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking with over 230 Great Tasting Recipes” published in 1997 by William Morrow and Company New York Inc.

Three pints of flour, two tablespoonfuls of butter or lard, salt, and half a pint of milk, well kneaded.

Take a quart of milk, make it hot enough to melt the butter, and put into it two good spoonfuls of butter; pour this into as much flour as will knead it into a very stiff dough; knead it well for an hour, and when quite light, roll it out, not too thin, and cut the biscuits with a cup.

Rub a large spoonful of butter into a quart of risen dough; knead it well, and make it into biscuits, either thick or thin. Bake them quickly (The Carolina Housewife by a Lady of Charleston – from a facsimile of the 1847 published by Babcock & Co. Charleston S.C.- edition with an introduction and a preliminary checklist of South Carolina Cookbooks published before 1935 by Anna Well Rutledge; University of South Carolina Press 1979)

According to Georgia’s cook book author Shirley Corriher, “low protein flour helps making tender and moist biscuits and a very wet dough makes more steam in a hot oven and gives lighter biscuits.
If low protein Southern self-rising flour is not available, she advises, use 1 cup national brand self-rising all-purpose and 1/2 cup instant flour (such as Shake and Blend or Wondra) or cake flour, plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. If self-rising flour is not available, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder can help. Using self-rising flour for shaping is not recommended since the leavener will give a bitter taste to the outside of the biscuits…

Makes about 10 biscuits
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ cups Southern self-rising flour *
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp shortening
1-1 ¼ cups buttermilk or ¾ cups of buttermilk and ½ cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup bleached all purpose flour for shaping
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (246 C) and spray an 8 inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the self-rising flour, soda, salt, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. By hand or with a pastry cutter, work the shortening into the flour mixture until there are no shortening lumps larger than a big pea. Stir in the buttermilk and let stand for 2 or 3 minutes. This dough will be so wet that it will be almost impossible shaping it in the usual manner.
Pour the cup of all-purpose flour into a plate or pie tin. Flour your hands well. Spoon a biscuit-size lump of wet dough into the flour and sprinkle some flour over the wet dough to coat the outside. Pick up the biscuit and shape it roughly into a soft round. At the same time, shake off the excess flour. The dough is so soft that it will hold its shape. As you shape each biscuit, place it in the pan. Push the biscuits tightly against each other so that they will rise up and not spread out. Continue shaping biscuits in this manner until all the dough is used. To make a large batch of biscuits in a hurry, spray a medium small (about 2 inch) ice cream scoop with non stick cooking spray. Cover a jelly roll pan with all purpose flour. Quickly scoop the biscuits onto the flour, sprinkle with flour, shape, and place in small pans.Brush the biscuits with melted butter and bake just above the center of the oven until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 1 or 2 minutes in the pan, then dump out and cut the biscuits apart. “Butter ’em whie they are hot!”…and eat immediately. (The Secrets of Cooking Revealed – CookWise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking with over 230 Great Tasting Recipes by Shirley O. Corriher; 1997 William Morrow and Company New York Inc. New York)

Cracker Barrel’s biscuits are freshly made daily and are served warm. The eating places belong to a southern chain of country stores-restaurants headquartered in Tennessee and are to be found along roads in at least 45 states around the United States. All are open Sunday-Thursday from 6 AM to 10 PM and Friday & Saturday from 6 AM to 11 PM.
For a Cracker Barrel map throughout the United States contact the headquarter’s website at Crackerbarrel.com or call 1-800-333-9566

To celebrate Mother’s Day here is a lovely and easy recipe on how to prepare 4 individual breakfast biscuits. Served warm and topped with apple butter or jam they will be delicious! Take 1 cup flour, 1/8-1/6 tsp baking soda, 1/2 Tbsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 Tbsp butter, 1/2 cup butter milk, 1/6 cup sugar; knead and make biscuits. Bake at 450 Fahrenheit in the preheated oven for 10 minutes + –

Adrian's Mother's Day Biscuits Copyrights incl. electr. Culinary Roots 2016

Adrian’s Mother’s Day Mississippi Biscuits
Copyrights incl. electr. Culinary Roots 2016

Walter Jerry Payton, also called “Sweetness,” was born in Columbia, Mississippi,in 1954. He began his football career as a collegiate football player at the Jackson State University and later as a professional football player was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He is remembered for his remarkable ability to rush down yards, for his touchdowns, for his yard scrimmages and football accomplishments, and for passing on to the Ladies of the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi, his mother’s recipe which was finally gathered in 1991 in a cook book by the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi.

Yields 18 biscuits
2 cups low protein self rising flour [made from soft wheat – example Lilly of the Valley brand]
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven at 400 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Make a well in flour and work shortening in by hand. Gradually add milk to mixture to make dough. Roll out dough on floured surface, being careful not to incorporate too much flour and not to work the dough too much. Cut out biscuits and bake 8 to 10 minutes on greased baking sheet until well browned (Come On In; Published by The Junior League of Jackson, Inc. Jackson, Mississippi, 1991-1993).

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