Monday, October 28, 2013

Grandma's Biscuits

Self-rising flour, water, and lard were the only ingredients that Grandma used to make homemade biscuits.
Grandma Emma
Most of the lives of my three sisters and I were spent living with our maternal grandparents, Minor Thornton (1913-1979) and Emma Johnson Thornton (1922- 2011). Our grandfather died when we were teenagers. When I think of my grandmother’s hands, I think of her cooking during my childhood and early adult life and making homemade biscuits.

Growing up with our grandparents, my sisters and I never starved; we did not always have what we wanted to eat, but as long as there was a little flour in the house and some cooking grease or lard, we would have a meal such of biscuits and gravy. Both of my maternal grandparents were from North Carolina and grew up on farms. They were from the depression era generation that knew how to take a little bit and make much.

Grandma’s Homemade Biscuits
Self-rising flour, water, and lard were the only ingredients that Grandma used to make homemade biscuits during my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s. During those days, my family would buy the big red plastic container of lard (probably about 5-10 lbs.) Grandma never used measuring cups to measure stuff, she only used these cups as a scoop. Grandma would mix her ingredients together until they became a big ball of dough. Perhaps it was the way that the dough felt to her hands that signaled to her that it was fully mixed and kneaded and ready for shaping into biscuits.

Then she would pinch off a wad of dough and begin shaping it into a round biscuit with her hands and fingers. Grandma never used a biscuit cutter to my knowledge and her biscuits always came out fluffy, round, and pretty. In my memory, I can still see her hands and fingers moving to shape the biscuits. Oh how I wish I had a video of this memory. Grandma’s mother Bell is remembered for her mouth watering biscuits. I assume that Grandma learned this skill from her mother.

During my youth, I followed Grandma’s biscuit recipe, but my so-called biscuits were more of a weapon or something to break your tooth rather than for eating. I’m still not sure to this day why mine never came out like hers.

We ate homemade biscuits often especially before my grandfather died in August 1979. Sometimes the biscuits themselves could be meal or a snack. Granddaddy liked to dip his in coffee or break them up in a bowl of stewed tomatoes. At times, he would also add other things such as molasses, jelly, butter, or Karo syrup to the biscuits. I believe that Karo syrup came in both a dark color and a clear color. I think that we used whichever of these were in our refrigerator. Karo syrup is also used to cook candied yams, but this makes a great additive to a hot biscuit. I never tried the coffee thing with biscuits, but I did eat them in stewed tomatoes or either with the other butter, jelly, or syrup additives. The best time to eat these biscuit was when they were hot out the oven. There were no microwaves back then, and if small toaster ovens were available at that time, my family did not own one.

I cannot remember the last time that Grandma made biscuits. During my fairly recent adult years, I have asked her to fix some biscuits, but her excuses are that she does not remember how to do this and that her hands are not like they used to be.

So the closest I can get to Grandma’s biscuits is by baking Grand’s Biscuits . Grandma’s homemade biscuits were not as large as Grands, however, they still can never replace the taste of Grandma’s biscuits.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prompt 2 - A Time to Be Born

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born . . . Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2


mama holding me
My Mother Holding Me

A half century ago on a Friday morning in late September, I was born at 9:44 AM at the Whittaker Memorial Hospital in Newport News, Virginia.  The hospital, which served African-Americans during a time when they were denied care at other medical facilities, no longer exists, but the building still stands at 1003 28th Street in Newport News, VA.  

At the time of my birth my father was a soldier in the United States Army and my mother was living with her parents because Daddy was away on military duty.  The first hands that held me were Dr. Samuel K. Ashby (1913-1999), who delivered me into the world.  I probably had some hair when I was born, but do not have any records regarding how much I weighed at birth.

dru at 3-months old
Dru at 3-months old

Besides my two parents, ancestors alive at the time of my birth included three grandparents and two great-grandparents. 

Mama’s Family
My arrival into the world created a new generational leaf on several branches of my mother’s family tree which made Mama a first-time mother; her parents Minor Elwood Thornton (1913-1979) and Emma Johnson Thornton (1922-2011), first-time grandparents; and her brother and sister an “uncle” and an “aunt” for the first time.  My birth also made Mama’s maternal grandmother Bell Bullock Johnson (1890-1982) a first-time great grandmother and Mama’s paternal grandfather Minor Thornton (1893-1966) a first-time great grandfather.  Siblings of my maternal grandparents also rose to the status of great-aunt and great-uncle when I was born a half century ago.

Daddy’s Family

For Daddy, my arrival into the world made him a first-time father.  But for his father, Matthew “Mack” Pair (1899-1987), I would just be another little leaf of many leaves of grandchildren already on the Pair family tree.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Book of Me, Written By You - Prompt 1

[Editor's Note:  my response to Prompt 1 was originally posted on Find Your Folks blog on September 1, 2013]

I love the new blogging prompt which begins today, “The Book of Me, Written by You.”  Genealogist and family history writers tend to focus on writing about their ancestors, but how many times have we wished that our ancestors had taken the time to write about their lives?  Unfortunately it is too late for our ancestors, but as long as WE have breath in our bodies, genealogist and family historians have an opportunity to write about their lives and personal history.  Thanks to Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog, for initiating this 15-month blogging prompt on “The Book of Me, Written by You.

Prompt #1 Who Am I?
  1. I am Drusilla also known as “Dru” or “Professor Dru”.
  2. I am almost a half century years old.
  3. I am a native Virginian.
  4. I am a bookworm and have been so all my life.
  5. I am the eldest child of a family of four girls.
  6. I am the eldest grandchild of my maternal grandparents, Minor Elwood and Emma Johnson Thornton.
  7. I am the eldest great grandchild of two sets of great grandparents, Minor and Marcie Thornton and George and Bell Bullock Johnson.
  8. I am my family's archivist.
  9. I am a genealogy professional.
  10. I am obsessed with family history.
  11. I am an avid researcher of anything which interests me.
  12. I am college educated.
  13. I am a techie.
  14. I am a full-time Instructional Technologist at a university.
  15. I am an organizer.
  16. I am a self-starter.
  17. I am a descendant of African Slaves and Native Americans.
  18. I am creative.
  19. I am a leader.
  20. I am an observer.
  21. I am a thinker.
  22. I am a lover of solitude.
  23. I am a morning person.
  24. I am a writer of drama, fiction, and non-fiction.
  25. I am a traveler.
  26. I am a teacher.
  27. I am a genealogy and technology lecturer.
Comments for Prompt 1 posted on Find Your Folks blog.