By Sean Dietrich
I am in a rundown breakfast cafe. The kind with torn vinyl seats and Formica countertops. The TV above the bar plays news headlines.
One of the TV’s talking heads shouts, “HOW ARE WE GONNA SAVE THIS WORLD?”
At exactly this moment my waitress appears. She places a plate of hot biscuits before me. She turns off the television and says, “This is how you save the world. Biscuits.”
She laughs at her own remark and walks away. And I am left looking at steaming biscuits, wondering if this woman isn’t correct.
Biscuits are one of those mysterious things that bring out the best in mankind.
Think about it. Have you ever seen anyone rob a bank or hotwire a car while simultaneously eating a biscuit? No. But you’ve probably seen plenty of career criminals eating Miracle Whip. Thus, we can conclude that Miracle Whip is of the devil. Also, low-fat cottage cheese.
But biscuits? They are downright holy. There are too many varieties to name, but here are a few:
Rolled biscuits, fried biscuits, beaten biscuits, drop biscuits, angel biscuits, shortcakes, widowmakers, heartstoppers, eye-poppers, Alabama sin cookies, Mississippi mantrappers, Georgia homewreckers, Texas tummy-tuckers, Louisiana lard pellets, buttermilk biscuits, sourdough biscuits, Dutch-oven biscuits, and of course, the immortal cathead biscuit.
When I first started writing in earnest, my work was published in a tiny regional newspaper. The editor asked for a professional byline—which is a mini biography. But I had no byline since I had never written anything more than a classified ad about a 1986 Ford.
So the editor tried to come up with a few words on my behalf. She asked, “What’re some of your major achievements?”
Achievements? I thought long and hard. “Well, I can swallow my tongue.”
“No, that’s not what I… Wait. Really?”
“Yes. Actually, I would like to see that.”
So I did it. She stared into my open mouth then made a note onto her legal pad while mumbling, “Can… Swallow… Own… Tongue.”
We spent an hour trying to discover some of my other hidden talents only to find that I didn’t have any. I tried everything including my Kermit the Frog impression, my uncle’s Irish limericks and I even made a failed attempt at performing the jump-over-your-own-leg dance move.
Finally, she came up with a byline. And in a moment that can only be called serendipitous, she formed a sentence that would stick with me for a long time.
“Sean Dietrich is a biscuit connoisseur.”
Little did I know that her words would sort of follow me throughout my life.
A few years ago, for example, I made a speech at a swanky party with many fancy people in the audience. The emcee was a former reality TV celebrity who wore sunglasses indoors, even backstage where he was often bumping into things.
The emcee introduced me as a “biscuit connoisseur.” Everybody laughed at this because they thought it was a joke. But, this is no joke.
During my childhood, I ate so many biscuits that my nickname was “Biscuit.” I was a chubby child. In fact, my mother firmly believes that I could have passed for Honey Boo Boo’s twin brother.
I didn’t care for the nickname because when you’re a kid, these things affect your confidence. There were boys on our baseball team with cool nicknames like “Kev,” “Rock” or “Chief.”
But every time the third-base coach yelled, “Run Biscuit!” it left a mark.
Even so, there was no denying it. My mother spoiled me with homemade biscuits. She prepared them from scratch most mornings, flouring the countertops, stamping the dough with an upside-down coffee mug.
The humble American biscuit has been one of the few constants in my life. In fact, biscuits were even present on the evening I met my wife.
I’ll never forget it. The church held its weekly fried chicken supper. Before you entered the buffet line, an elderly lady with a beehive hairdo would stop you. She would be holding a goldfish bowl full of dollar bills.
She’d say, “There’s a suggested donation of five dollars for supper tonight.” Emphasis on “suggested.” Then she’d rattle her bowl and stare at you with coldblooded reptilian eyes.
“I don’t have five dollars,” I’d say. “All I have is two bucks.”
She’d yank the money from my hand and scowl. “I’m watching you, Dietrich.”
But anyway, our church buffets were legendary. They consisted primarily of three dishes:
- Green vegetables that had been cooked so long they were no longer vegetables, and come to think of it, they weren’t even green.
- Fried chicken thighs the size of Danny Devito.
When Beehive would catch me stealing upwards of five biscuits, her lips would curl over her yellow teeth and she would emit a low growl reminding me that she was a woman who could quarter chicken carcasses with her bare hands.
I met my future wife that night. When our eyes first locked I knew there was something about this girl. And when she sopped her plate counterclockwise with a biscuit I knew I had found the woman I would grow old with.
So I don’t know much, but I believe my waitress is onto something. No, biscuits might not save this world right away. But they certainly aren’t a bad place to start.
Take it from a connoisseur. Who can swallow his own tongue.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.