When I was a kid, the only biscuits I ever ate came in a tube in the refrigerator. You peeled the cover off the tube, whacked it hard against the edge of the counter, and pulled out eight little round pieces of dough. When baked, these little circles became what passed as biscuits in our house. The first time I ever tasted any semblance of a real biscuit was with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. These were fatter, tastier, and much much greasier.
When my mother-in-law died, we inherited the wooden biscuit bowl pictured above. She grew up in rural Texas and her mother had left this bowl to her. It must be, therefore, at least 100 years old, probably more. I have loved it as an art object, but really didn’t understand its use until I prepared this post. Sadly I never had the opportunity to ask my mother-in-law how she remembered it being used.
I loved reading how women simply poured a large amount of flour into the bowl, made a well for the lard, buttermilk and baking powder and began mixing. By sight and feel, the baker would mix the dough until it was just right for biscuits. Bread was also made in these bowls, and the wood held the heat for the required rise.
My husband’s grandmother had five children, a husband with tuberculosis, and very little money. I am quite sure she constantly made biscuits and bread to fill every stomach. She definitely used the flour sack cloth for sewing. Her frugality was passed down to her daughter and now onto her grandson, my husband. His salvaging of bricks and collecting of seeds shows he learned to “make do” as surely as his grandmother with her wooden biscuit bowl.