Letters From Home: Memories Of Her Grandmother's Biscuits
Letters From Home is WOSU's new series collecting stories about our day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. Lynaya Elliott was inspired to submit a short story she wrote and recorded about her maternal grandmother, Hazel.
Stuck in her apartment a little over a month, Elliott (a former WOSU employee) mulled over the meaning of "home" – pulling, she says, from "somewhere deep within my memory, in hopes of restoring its comforts."
Elliott has been working remotely as Department Manager for Ohio State's Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. The extra time at home gives her even more time to reminisce.
The scent and charm of Elliott's 1930s-era apartment inspire nostaligia. It's the kitchen, though, that brings her back to Grandma Hazel.
"On occasion I'll open up the cupboard to reach for a vintage turquoise Corningware dish," Elliott says. "And for a moment, as I close the cabinet door, I get this brief scent of her kitchen."
She's unsure the origins of the scent, but knows it reminds her of her grandmother.
"These details remind me of how much I miss her," she says, "And of her biscuits."
Read Elliott's story below.
"Hazel Faye Satterfield," by Lynaya Elliott
After being stuck in my apartment for four weeks due to the Coronavirus, one of the things that I’ve begun to think about is certain points of my life where I can recall great detail about home or of a place deep within my memory in hopes of restoring its comforts. Sometimes when I unlock the back door to my brick apartment building, I get a slight fragrance of nostalgia and I immediately think of my Grandma Hazel.
My apartment, which was built in 1937, holds all kinds of scents and longing that is reminiscent of her kitchen. My home has a lot of charm in its warm-tinted, polished window frames, imperfect wooden floors, curved doorways, built in ironing board closet, and cubby-holes.
It’s the kitchen, though, that constantly reminds me of her. On occasion, I’ll open up the cupboard to reach for a vintage, turquoise Corningware dish and, for a brief moment as I close the cabinet door, I get an all-too-brief scent of her kitchen. Whether it’s the contact shelf liner, years of cooking saturated in the aged wooden cabinets, glimpse of items similar to her own shelf (vinegar, baking soda, Milk of Magnesia), these details painfully remind me of how much I miss her and her biscuits.
That woman knew how to nest. She kept the cabinets cleared out by following a regular chore schedule, the floors and carpets cleared of debris from my Grandpa Floyd’s muddy-ass boots clomping inside carelessly, and always had the rooms filled with a half caramelized, half burnt smell of pancake batter frying on the griddle.
She used to have this stack of paper trash that she kept in the hallway next to the back door so she could let Mom rifle through it for rebate opportunities before burning it in the trash barrel. As my own recycling pile climbs embarrassingly high, it has now begun to fall over into the kitchen floor where I frequently kick it out of my walking path. Oh, Hazel would not approve.
Grandma watched us after school when we were younger, and we spent our summers over at her house watching Matlock and flipping through giant, wildlife nature books. She and my Grandpa Floyd had a substantial garden on borrowed acreage where we spent hours bent over pulling pole beans in the blistering sun.
My most favorite memory was when me and Grandma were driving back that dirt lane to work in the garden. She was wearing that navy blue handkerchief around her wispy bun of hair and its triangular tip flapping in the wind. That dirt road got bumpier each time we drove back there, and although she got good at jerking the wheel to avoid the potholes, this particular day we bounced so hard her dentures fell plumb out! We both howled and yelped all the way back that lane and I’m sure if I didn’t piss my pants, I sure came close.
A few years ago, Mom gave me an old cast iron of Grandma’s that I store on the stovetop. Even when not in use, I like knowing it’s there and greased up at all times. She was one hell of a cook, a baker and a canner. It’s what she did for work where she prepared meals at the Good Shepherd’s Manner, a church-funded home for men with developmental disabilities down in Lucasville.
She also, of course, would cook up a mess of food for her congregation on the regular. While I never particularly enjoyed church, I loved sitting next to Grandma and digging in her purse for some frayed little notebook to draw in, an empty coin purse, or silently tugging on her skirt for a piece of Freshen-Up gum with that juice in the middle.
I remember on the drives back down off the ridge, the sun would bake me in the back of her blue Ford. The best part about going to church, however, was getting to sit around her kitchen table for Sunday dinner afterwards. She busted out the fresh, warm biscuits for every meal and even had a separate pan of slightly burnt buttermilks in that wobbly little pan for Floyd. Skillet fried pork chops, breaded chicken, salmon cakes, bacon, sausage patties, eggs with the “knot on top” just how I liked were all the things she fried in that pan.
These ghost smells of Grandma Hazel’s past are what warmly wraps around me some days after I’ve been cooking in that skillet the night before. I’m not a praying woman, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t close my eyes real tight some days holding a brief hope that she’s in there frying up my supper.
Grandma Hazel's Biscuits
While Grandma Hazel never wrote any recipes down, Elliott's mom took care to document the making of her biscuits by taking notes while "standing over her shoulder," Elliott says.
Elliott and her family are happy to share the recipe.
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2.5 to 2.75 cups flour
- Pour buttermilk in bowl and stir in remaining ingredients to form dough. Place on floured pastry sheet, knead and cut.
- Place in greased pan and dot with butter.
- Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 10-12 minutes.
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