NO, Mr. McDonald -- you don't roll buttermilk biscuits. The gentleman has been pushing his hot breakfast buttermilk biscuits of late, not only with commercials on the television but with flying banners across the fronts of his restaurants, and I presume thousands of fast-food fans have come to his tables to partake. But it is nice to know something a big man like Mr. McDonald doesn't, and I hasten to advise him to heave away the rolling pin used on his commercials to manhandle the biscuit dough. You don't roll the dough for buttermilk biscuits. You pat it wi th love and affection, kindness and more love. It is the rule.
Buttermilk biscuits? The real thing? First, you need a cow. Then a boy to turn the crank on the churn. And a mother muscular enough to spank butter until it is ready. We churned every Saturday morning. I cranked; Mother spanked. Thus buttermilk is had -- there is no other way. Cultured buttermilk is a delusion, never ripe and ready, never sufficient unto the day and deed. Buttermilk biscuits of the true breed were not baked for breakfast (except by Thaddy Weems), but were meant for Saturday night supper
with baked beans. New butter, and a comb of honey. If we had buttermilk biscuits for breakfast, they were warmed from the night before, but Mr. McDonald isn't old enough to know about that. Thaddy Weems (above) used to bake himself a pan of biscuits every morning for breakfast, and he'd finish them off at dinner and supper. One morning his fire kindled reluctantly, and he had to thaw the pump, and one thing and another contrived to delay him, and it was already half past 6 when he shoved the pan in the ove n. He looked at the clock and said, ``Gracious! Half past 6 already! Where has the forenoon gone?''
Pat it. Have the dough soft so it will sort of drip off the end of a table knife -- not too dry. I'll guess Mr. McDonald doesn't have a Rumford Baking Powder biscuit cutter, but a corn can cuts biscuits well enough if you punch a couple of holes to defeat a vacuum. What about a wood-burning stove, and a few sticks of dry alder to ``brown'' 'em? Probably patting is the only thing left of the old-time requisites, and we must fight to keep it important. Never roll a biscuit. You can roll doughnuts.
Mr. McDonald might like to know where the doughnut business started. Frank Carver was the chief of police in the town of Topsham. He had a dance orchestra that played several nights a week at Grange halls, and he fried doughnuts every morning. His wife mixed the dough and rolled and cut them, but Frank attended the caldron of fat with a stick -- a wand not unlike a bandmaster's baton. The Carvers supplied doughnuts to shops and restaurants, and people came to buy. The Carver home was surrounded by the g lad news of hot doughnuts, and unless police duty called, Frank would stand there with his little stick every morning, turning the doughnuts as needed and lifting them to dry and cool on the counter. Frank was so permeated with his doughnuts that he exuded an appetizing flavor, so people dancing past the orchestra platform would sniff and long for a doughnut. Frank appeared often in court as a witness, and when Judge Rousseau gave him the oath, the judge would drool.
So one time Frank went up to Skowhegan to fetch back a prisoner, and he took breakfast at the Tuttle-Brown Caf'e with Judge Merrill of the Somerset judiciary. As they sat with their sausages and pancakes, everybody who came into the place would sniff Frank, and presume the management was frying fresh doughnuts. As a consequence, there was a brisk demand that morning for fresh doughnuts, but the Tuttle-Brown Caf'e had never served anything but machine-cut doughnuts made in a bake-factory downstate. Lem Tuttle-Brown was impressed, and could see that frying fresh doughnuts on the premises held promise of prosperity, and he never bought a factory doughnut again. In his time he was famous as the originator of the whole doughnut idea, but he always gave credit to Chief Carver.