Sometimes you just need comfort food! Food like your mama or grandma made for you as a kid. Food from a favorite restaurant, or junk food from a gas station. Anyone who likes food has a favorite or two. On a stressful day, or even a cold day, certain foods bring comfort. Just like ice cream hits a special spot on a Summer day, hot soup warms you to your toes on a Winter day.
There is no better comfort food in the world than one that brings back fond memories of special days. Why do you think the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is such a favorite? I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t want the same dinner with all the fixings every year. It brings them pure joy.
My absolute favorite comfort food is one my mama made us almost every weekend. Usually on Sunday morning. It’s gravy and biscuits. Any time I miss my mama, I get a craving for her biscuits and gravy. Her creamy gravy, made from a bacon dripping roux, and rich milk, was smooth as silk. She always added extra black pepper for me. That hot gravy poured over her light as a feather biscuit, was a meal to die for! It’s no wonder it was a family favorite. And no wonder it gives me so much comfort when I am missing those precious days.
I was talking to my daughter Christine this week and somehow the conversation landed on cooking. She was explaining to me that in Maine, she cannot find the flour or cornmeal that she was used to using here in Tennessee. Christine is a very good biscuit and cornbread maker, and those are two of her favorite things to bake. Our conversation then led to gravy and biscuits. It turns out that is also her favorite meal. A girl after my own heart!
Gravy and biscuits are certainly not on my weekly menu as it was growing up, but I do indulge now and then. A couple of weeks ago, with the mornings turning cold, I had a hankering for my mama’s breakfast. I found a new bacon brand that is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever tasted. I saved the drippings and made plans to make my mama’s gravy. I decided to just use store bought biscuits, as I could never duplicate my mama’s anyway. But I made the gravy just like she always did. It was wonderful! As I ate that meal, even the aroma of the rich, peppery gravy, brought me back to sitting around the table with my parents and siblings. It not only warmed me up on a chilly morning, but it also filled my tummy and heart with the love I felt way back then. Now that is comfort food at its best!
BETTER WITH A BISCUIT
Summertime always brings with it memories of summers past, growing up in Northeast Tennessee my first 10 years of life. We lived on a mountain top, my mama, daddy, sister, brother, and me. My surroundings were some of the most ideal any child could ever hope for. Not because we had a big house, fancy furnishings, or a lot of toys. But because of the many little things we shared daily.
My Mama was a wonderful cook. A true Southern cook. It was typical for her to cook three meals a day, seven days a week. And with each of those meals, homemade bread was served. Either her biscuits, or her cornbread. Anyone who knew my mama’s biscuits and cornbread, knows there are not enough words in the Webster’s dictionary to describe just how good they were! Mama took great pride in making her biscuits or cast-iron skillet of cornbread perfect, every time!
During the summer, it was not unusual to have an entire dinner consist of fresh veggies, cooked or raw, from my daddy’s garden. Meat wasn’t as plentiful in the hot months. But it also wasn’t needed. Not with the bounty my daddy would provide from his garden. A typical dinner would be corn on the cob, fried potatoes, green beans, sliced onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. With Mama’s hot biscuits and cornbread, it was a dinner for kings! We never, ever, complained there was no meat on the table. Our taste buds were blissfully satisfied and our tummies sufficiently filled. Add a cold glass of milk or buttermilk and your mouth is watering. We left the dinner table happy and healthy.
I never thought much then about my mama making hot biscuits or cornbread at every meal. I guess I took it for granted. It was our norm. But now I realize one of the reasons she did it was to make the simple ingredients she had to prepare more substantial. It probably grieved her that she didn’t have meat for every supper being the perfectionist that she was. Likely, she questioned her ability as a mother providing for her children. But without even knowing it, she set a standard that I myself have never been able to meet.
Mama was right when she used to say that everything is better with a biscuit. Maybe one of her biscuits! To this day, I have never had a biscuit or cornbread that can hold a candle to my mama’s. What I wouldn’t give to sit down to that table just one more time. Slice up the cornbread, pass out the biscuits, and enjoy the love that surrounded me there.