Would that more people have read Duncan Stanley’s comprehensive Technology of Biscuits, Crackers, and Cookies (now in its third edition) to better understand the meaningless tar pit we’ve turned our world into, where children’s treats and tokens of affection are deposited upon us in mass eruptions from cold, heartless, terrific machines. Nothing available better explains who we are or the destruction we’re gleefully embracing.
A Brit, Stanley speaks of “biscuit” as a sugared confection, not as the Southern staple, and that there exists no American companion to his work is a disservice. Perhaps the endless schwarmerei we Colonials pack into and onto our food prevents us from exploring the terrain.
Consider, for example, a possible excursion on the biscuit were we to trace its origin back to its position as American class signifier. Below is a common recipe for “tea biscuits,” sometimes called “lady biscuits”:
2 cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of shortening
3/4 cup of buttermilk (or whole milk, per preference)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F) and apply grease to a baking sheet.
2. Combine dry ingredients, then add shortening until mix crumbs.
3. Stir in milk with a fork to make a soft dough.
4. Knead the dough around 10 times, and then roll flat to at least 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut into small rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on sheet for a few minutes to settle.
6. Contemplate one’s place within centuries old caste system.
7. Bake for up to 15 minutes. Serve warm.
The tea biscuit, as opposed to the “drop biscuit” or “cathead biscuit,” appears on the menu of the gentility and is distinguished both by its smaller circumference and nonnegotiable lack of bacon grease.
That the proles, for once, are afforded a larger portion of the biscuit bounty should be viewed in its proper context, namely that the percentage of gross biscuit relative to the total meal is inversely proportional the diners’ ability to increase exponentially their meals in both variety and frequency, and hence and indicator to their total wealth.
A heuristic that we may present simply in the following function:
f -1 (B) = Wm!
In other words, we’re out of eggs. Eat more biscuit.
However, modernization has greatly altered the outward signifiers of class cuisine. In keeping with the upper crust’s thinking that large biscuits are “unladylike,” today’s foodstuffs fall within a hierarchy of paying more for less--less saturated fat, fewer preservatives, no chemicals.
The results? Eating healthily becomes a luxury good, and “dollar menu” items glut the sidestreets and arteries of those beyond the pricepoint. Relatively few products are labeled “fair trade,” questioning what type of trade creates the bulk of our goods. There is high comedy in watching Martha Stewart become a billionaire performing the acts of a houseslave, but I’ve not the foggiest as to whom joke’s on.
The larger point, though, is that generations of people walk around thinking of “home cooking” as a box of dust, justly added with water and zapped in a microwave. More and more of the individualization of memory is being replaced by focus-grouped taste tests and high-priced marketing slogans. This, among other reasons, is why I hold no grudge against graffiti.
For it is no mistake that these vandals are named “artists,” even in the police blotter. Though aesthetically the graffiti artist may not be Chaim Soutine, he or she is less a criminal than the bastards who invented Red Bull.