My sweet mother, a sixth-generation Natchezian, often admitted that her least favorite room in the house was the kitchen. In Natchez, Mississippi, you’d encounter biscuits at many meals — both breakfast and dinner. Most every household had a qualified biscuit maker who, more often than not, had a special wooden bowl used daily for the sole purpose of making biscuits.
My mother could not make a biscuit without the sound of a pressurized tube being popped open.
It was not until I was a culinary student at La Varenne in Paris, and French friends requested Southern biscuits, that I attempted to make my first biscuit. I was a mere 24 years old.
I knew the basic ingredients for biscuits were flour, sugar, baking powder, Crisco and buttermilk. But when I went shopping in Paris, I could not find Crisco. I thought of replacing it with butter, but I knew that if I used all butter I would have a shortbread instead of biscuits. So I decided to use three parts margarine, which seemed a better substitute for Crisco. I kept one part butter for richness.
That decision served me well, and the biscuits I made that day in Paris nearly 40 years ago are the biscuits I make today — it’s still my go-to recipe.