Sunday, April 8, 2012

IS THERE HUMOR IN GREEN BISCUITS?

Recently I’ve sort of reconnected with a childhood friend and we are reminiscing via Facebook about things we recall from being kids and spending time together. This is probably a common practice these days as more and more of us baby boomers are getting connected on-line and our social networks are getting retangled with our past.

My friend Tami and I are a year or so apart in age and our lives past age 15 couldn’t have been much different. In reality it was our parents that brought us together and continue to keep us in touch. The four of them were best friends for most of their lives and I enjoy hearing their story so I’m going to pass it along here.

JUST LIKE LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY
Mary (on left) and Joann having fun
in their apartment.
My Mom, Joann, and her high school friend, Mary Lee, decided to leave their hometown of Fairmont, WV and come to Akron after graduation to find jobs in the big city. In the 1950’s it was very common for people to come to Akron to find work in the “rubber shops” of Goodrich, Firestone or Goodyear. There was not much work in West Virginia unless you were willing to work the coal mines. And probably not much for young women to do except work in the plants on an assembly line. Mom’s older brothers had both come to Akron by that time and found jobs making good money so it seemed practical that Mom would follow them here.

Joann and Mary Lee found an attic apartment over on the south side of Akron and they settled in to find jobs and make friends in their new environment. A few months after they arrived, their landlady brought up two tickets to Weathervane (Yes, Weathervane is THAT old) for an upcoming show. Seems a "neighbor down the street" had the tickets and gave them to the two girls since “he couldn’t use them and thought they might like to go”. Which they did.

Mary Lee Haney as Dave must have
seen her back in 1953
And who do you suppose was sitting next to them? Surprise! It was the "neighbor from down the street" who’d had his eye on Mary Lee and wanted very much to meet her. I guess men didn’t just walk up to ladies in the 1950’s and say “hey baby, how about you go out with me?” (at least not until the Fonzie-type’s rolled out around 1960). This was Dave’s way of meeting Mary.   And…it worked. Mary and Dave began dating.

Mom posing for the camera - yes, she
DID look nice in the sweater.
Soon, Dave’s highschool buddy, Bill (who worked at Goodrich where our other young lady, Joann, worked) told Dave that he would very much like an introduction to “that lady that works in the office and wears the sweaters”. Yes, Mom was pretty well endowed. And she just happened to be Mary's roommate.

Introductions were made…..double dating ensued…..engagements were announced…..weddings planned and pretty soon there was me and then Tami, little bundles of joy! Two women from Fairmont, two guys from Akron and romance under the soot scoured skies of the Rubber City. Ain’t it romantic!

SO WHAT ABOUT THOSE GREEN BISCUITS?

Bill, Joann, Mary Lee and Dave. 
Great question. As the years rolled by, Mary and Dave and Bill and Joann stayed close friends and while Joann was a working Mom, Mary stayed home with her two children. Many days Joann would leave me with Mary to stay while she was at work. I got to play with Tami (and Tim, her younger brother) and us girls would sometimes manage to get into some trouble.

As we got older Mary would allow Tami and I to be in the kitchen and occasionally fix a meal. One weekend I was staying there and Tami and I were tasked with dinner. It happened to be St. Patrick’s day weekend and one of us had the brilliant idea of making the biscuits green. Frankly, I’m impressed that we were making biscuits on our own, we must have been all of 13 or 14. To turn them GREEN must have been a leap of faith.

They were definitely a leap of disaster because neither Dave nor Mary found it funny. All that fun we had making them was crushed when Dave caught site of the green lumps we passed out. Sheesh….I thought they were fine.

Sadly, Dave passed away a few years back but Mary and Joann are still good friends. Even though Mom forgets much, she remembers who Mary is. I suppose it’s now up to us to remember for her those days when the big city of Akron was THE place to find a future for young ladies from Farimont.

NOT GREEN, BUT STILL TERRIFIC BISCUITS
This must have been the recipe Tami and I used that day. Mom taught me to make these biscuits and I still use this recipe today. Tender and soft, yet with a crunch on the outside, these cannot be beat from any can in the supermarket.

Today I sometimes use a food processor to mix the flour and butter. We would have done this with an old fashioned pastry blender in the past. I still own one, see how it’s used here.

2 cups flour (I use a combo of mostly white all purpose flour mixed with about 25% whole wheat)
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbls. shortening*
3/4 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Add the shortening to the bowl.

Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or food processor.  The flour should resemble a moist cornmeal - not too chunky.

Add milk until soft dough is formed. Pour out onto well floured surface and pat out lightly to 3/4 inch thick circle.  Using a floured water glass, cut into rounds and place in well greased dish. Add butter dots to tops of biscuits.

Bake at 400º for 12 - 15 minutes.  If using a glass dish, these will brown nicely on the bottoms. 

To make Sweet Potato Biscuits: Add ¼ cup sugar to dry ingredients. Add about ½ cup cooked, mashed sweet potato to the dough and bake as noted.

* a note about using shortening.  I've substituted butter in the past, but this recipe doesn't turn out quite as good.  I now keep a small can of butter flavored vegetable shortening on hand almost exclusively for this recipe.

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