Picture this. It’s six o’clock on a Thursday morning and you’re making biscuits. You’ve set your alarm fifteen minutes early and it will be at least another forty-five before the sun starts to peak over Vulcan Mountain. It’s cold, but not too cold. You’re groggy, wearing too many layers, waiting for the coffee to slowly percolate. It’s your roommate’s birthday, so these are important biscuits, but you only have one roommate, so you’ve decided to halve it. All of the sudden, a whole teaspoon of salt goes in – the measurement specified on the full amount.
What to do? Your first reaction is to try to get the salt out. This is unsuccessful because salt is kind of hard to find in a bowl of flour. Your second reaction is to panic and throw it away, but the clock is reaching 6:30 and you’re almost out of flour. Your third reaction is to say, “What the Hell,” and keep going; adding a bit of cornmeal, an extra splash of buttermilk, and a grind of black pepper in your best attempt at balance. You put the biscuits in the oven, along with the sweet potato you’ll scarf down later for lunch. You work on your notes for your fourth grade class on the Food Web. You take the biscuits out, try a bite. They’re the best damn biscuits you’ve ever made.
I’m finding post-grad life to be a lot like accidentally ending up with the best damn biscuits you’ve ever made. I’m five months out, and things seem to be consistently happening; sporadically, joyously, terrifyingly, and all at once. It was graduation and I blinked. I moved to Alabama for a job that I accepted without putting down the phone. My roommate moved down with me more or less because I asked her late one night, after consuming one or two or three drinks together. I’m a teacher now, and in the classroom everything seems to happen haphazardly; thoughtfully and haphazardly all at once, if there is such a thing.
(the new digs: a different world from St. Marks Place)
Lessons are written, but rarely go as planned. In the classroom you’ll be asked questions you don’t know the answer to and will have to embrace the art of admittance; mastering the slow head shake and the phrase, “Well what do you think?” It is an act of constant improvisation – to the unanticipated question, the unanticipated disruption, the unanticipated childhood crises of vomit, tears, an upsetting election, or simple hurt feelings. And much like being a new teacher, moving to a new city is an exhausting and rewarding balancing act between the unexpected turn and allowing yourself to occasionally stop and ask for directions.
Life is keeping me on my toes and it’s a good place to be. I’m learning that as a new teacher, a new adult, and a new Alabamian a little boldness goes a long way, and if you don’t fear the unanticipated accident (and a little extra salt) you may even end up with the best damn biscuits you’ve ever made. Happy Thanksgiving y’all – and a happy belated to Stella, who deserves all the biscuits.
Salty Cornmeal Biscuits
*Note: I made this using discard sourdough starter – and if you don’t know what that is, you don’t keep a sourdough starter and you don’t need to worry about it. It is an AWESOME use of your weekly (or daily) discard though. For you sane folk, replace the 3/4 C discard starter with a heaping 1/3 C of AP flour and slightly over 1/3 C of extra buttermilk (adjust as needed!).
1 C AP Flour
3/4 C sourdough discard (stirred well)
1/4 C yellow cornmeal
2 t baking powder
3/4 – 1 t salt (choose your own boldness)
8 T unsalted butter
splash of buttermilk, shaken
2-3 grinds of black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425 F. Combine sourdough discard and yellow cornmeal in a small bowl.
- Combine AP flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Cut in cold butter into flour mixture in tablespoon chunks with a pastry cutter or using your fingers; crumbling the dough into a shaggy consistency until the chunks are pea-sized.
- Add the cornmeal/sourdough mix to the flour/butter, following with your splash of buttermilk. Mix lightly until combined. Do not over-mix – it will toughen! Add a 4-5 big grinds of black pepper.
- Scoop large plods of dough by the heaping spoonful on to a slightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.