Mom's Biscuits

Recently, my offering to a Sunday brunch pot-luck was a double batch of Mom’s Sunday biscuits. I knew from my childhood that this recipe resulted from practicing over and over for my grandfather until it was just right. I asked my mom to tell the story again, because family recipe stories can be as revealing as other life stories. I was not disappointed.

My grandfather, Paul, decided that my young mother would be difficult to marry off, so she  needed to learn a useful skill. A recurring theme in his relations with his four daughters, matrimony was a source of some anxiety in the immigrant family. Nevertheless, my grandfather decided to teach my mother to make biscuits in order to “attract a husband” when she was old enough. Paul qualified on that account, having served as a cowboy cook in his youth. The morning of a cattle drive in Northern Arizona in the early 1920’s, the assigned cook quit over an unknown slight.  Paul, a recent arrival from Mexico, volunteered for the position. Due to time constraints, restless cattle, and a lack of other volunteers, Paul took over the chuck wagon after the cook decamped. He learned on the job. Dutch oven biscuits, made in a campfire, became his specialty.

My mother recalled long Sunday drives after mass. As this was prior to Vatican II, no one was allowed to break their fast before church. Driving further and further into the desert north of Phoenix, they would take in the landscape. Appearing barren, the desert would reveal its colorful and often beautiful secrets. Still, everyone was hungry. An incorrigible tease, Paul would ask if a place looked good to stop. The other occupants in the car would say, “yes!” He would find something wrong with the site, and keep driving. This would go on a few times before he finally pulled over.

Once in an ideal spot, he would build a campfire. Paul would take the old cast iron dutch oven out of the car and place it in the fire. He quickly made biscuit dough and dropped spoonfuls into the oven. He covered the oven, and they would wait. My grandmother would have packed other picnic food, but those biscuits, slightly burnt from the oven, were my mothers favorite thing in her young life. The whole morning at mass, the interminable drive for what seemed like hours was worth it in the instant that hot quick bread melted in her mouth.

Carolyn was game for the biscuit making enterprise. He would whisper to her, “Isn’t it about time you practiced those biscuits? Remember, only one cup of flour.” The recipe would make just enough for four to six biscuits. Happily, she fell again and again for his ploy and eventually did perfect that recipe. It took some time, but she began to wonder exactly who was benefitting from all of this “practice.”

As one who fell for both my parents’ pranks and jokes again and again, it was good to hear that she, too, was a child once. My grandfather passed away after a long illness when my mother was twenty. Sweet memories of her childhood, when her dad was still healthy, were revealed in that recipe.

Unitarian Universalism in a Nut Shell

One of the topics that comes up from time to time is how to describe Unitarian Universalism. The old elevator speech. I use a more abbreviated version of this, but I think I will try to use the whole thing.

Unitarian Universalism started as two similarly progressive religions that merged in 1961. The two incorporated by agreeing on a set of principles that included insisting all humans have worth and dignity, and searching for religious or spiritual truths with integrity. Individual beliefs are very diverse. Membership and, more importantly, participation in the church community calls us to practice right relationship with one another. We can better adapt, adjust, and minister to, from the Latin ministrare, “to serve,” our increasingly complicated world.

Addendum 5/1/14:

Unitarian Universalism started as two similarly progressive religions that merged in 1961. The two incorporated by agreeing on a set of principles that included insisting all humans have worth and dignity, and searching for religious or spiritual truths with integrity. Individual beliefs are very diverse. Membership and, more importantly, participation in the church community calls us to practice right relationship with one another. Thus centered, our beliefs best influence our work for the common good.

— Thank you to Pope Francis for inspiring me to update the last sentence. It needed that little something.

Ideally this is to invite questions. What do you mean progressive? What kind of beliefs? What kind of principles? Why would I need or even want to go to a church?

The challenge was to write something with no negatives, i.e. this, not that. You can write to me to request my more cynical explanation of the above.

 

On “10 Things You can’t Buy With Food Stamps”

Think about which personal care items you could live without. Could you pick? Would it be deodorant? Toothpaste? Toothbrush? Soap? Shampoo? What about laundry detergent? These are just some of the things that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. [1] I’ve been experimenting with baking soda and vinegar for my hair and baking soda for my teeth, for environmental, as well as money reasons. Last year, I bought them in large quantities for cleaning, along with a large supply of laundry detergent and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Next is homemade deodorant.

Yet, try to get a teenager to forego shampoo or deodorant. Imagine trying to brush a toddler’s teeth with something other than toothpaste. What do you substitute for diapers and powder. Diapers, tampons and pads are also not covered. Thus, mothers are penalized more heavily. Make-up would be out, of course, but so, too, are lip balm and lotion.

This has become the reality for more and more of households suffering from food insecurity. Plus, the amount awarded is not enough if 90% of the funds are used by the third week. The fourth week is made up, for some, by local food banks. Others wait must it out.[2] There is the added indignity of not having, or being able to buy those items essential for being in public, let alone looking for employment.

Interestingly, a disproportionate number of gay and lesbian households receive food stamps. Lesbian couples also receive more cash aid, in all likelihood due to the diminished earning potential of women. “Some 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared with 6.5 percent of different-sex married couples. Moreover, 2.2 percent of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance, compared with 0.8 percent of women in different-sex couples.”[3] We cannot ignore the Transgender community who have double the unemployment rate, doubling once again to 28% for African American transgender individuals.[4] No wonder so many tragically end up homeless.

Those in poverty continue to be vilified by politicians. A climate of resentment has been cultivated by those in power, so much so that people forget teachings by their religion that tells to remember the poor. Worse the working poor earn just enough money to be unqualified for help. It is the rich that feel entitled. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the dignity of of each person. What are we called to do for the poor who walk among us?


[1] What You Can’t Buy

[2] SNAP Myths & Realities

[3] Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Poverty Update

[4] Transgender Face Uphill Battle

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Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
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Tue, 10/01/2013 - 22:01

Acknowledgments

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