Pass the Bee Spit, Please

My mother was the kind of housewife who kept an immaculately clean home, and greeted my Dad at the end of every day with supper ready on the table.  When Erma Bombeck wrote about her neighbor the Super Mom who put her to shame, she must have had my mother in mind.

My mother, unfortunately, also suffered from migraine headaches.  On those occasional bad days, she would go into her bedroom, close the curtains and the door and lay on the bed with a cool cloth over her eyes.  We knew to be quiet on those days when we came home from school and found her bedroom door shut and the house silent.

Dad would know as soon as he walked through the front door that Mom wasn't feeling well.  There would be no tantalizing odors from the clean kitchen.  The kids would be sitting and waiting for supper.

"How about some biscuits and gravy?" Dad would ask.  It was the only thing my father knew how to cook.  Hungry, we would nod our heads in agreement.

We have never been able to discover the secret to Dad's biscuits. Nobody else makes them from scratch quite the same way.  He would mix up the dough, roll it out and use an overturned drinking glass to cut out the round shapes.  Then he'd put them on a cookie sheet and slide them into the over while he made the gravy.

While Dad's gravy was fairly passable as cuisine went, the biscuits were a different story.  Hard and flat, they came out of the oven in the same shape they went in.  They never rose up puffy and light like my mother's biscuits.  And they were yellow, not just golden brown on top.  When we broke one open, it was yellow all the way through.

It may have been that Dad confused baking powder with baking soda, or perhaps he ignored both while he was mixing the dough by hand.  One day, my brother watched every move my Dad made during the process and still couldn't determine where he went wrong.

"I dunno, Dad.  Maybe if you washed your hands first...," my brother mumbled.  "Where did you learn to make biscuits like this, anyway?"

"From your Grandpa, son.  It's an old family recipe that he passed on to me."  Well, Dad must not have paid enough attention to Grandpa's instructions, because I can tell you that Grandpa's biscuits never looked like that.

There's something about a good bowl of gravy, though, that covers a multitude of mistakes.  When we poured the gravy over the biscuits, they tasted wonderful.  Still, there would be a stack of disc-shaped biscuits left over.

"How about a little bee spit with your biscuit?" my Dad would whisper as he pulled a jar of honey from the cupboard.  My mother was a stickler about nutrition.  She didn't think sugar or sweets were good for growing children.  We seldom were treated to cakes, pies or puddings, but Dad always had a jar of clover honey he kept put up out of reach.  If gravy was tasty on the biscuits, the golden honey was like heaven.

"Why do you call it bee spit?" I once asked.  Dad shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know, that's just what his father always called it. It was another of those family traditions that was passed along.

As soon as supper was over, we'd clean the kitchen as well as we could. Then we'd sit around the living room and watch a favorite television show, our stomachs full and our heads light with a sugar buzz.  The only clue that we had overindulged in sweets was the sticky spots my mother would find in the kitchen the next day.

The other morning at a meal of biscuits and gravy, I heard one of my teenagers say, "Hey, Sis, pass the bee spit, will you?"

I had to laugh.  Dad would have been proud.  We have, indeed, passed the bee spit along to another generation.  But the secret to those biscuits, well, that's another matter entirely!

[ by Pamela Jenkins -- from 'The Inspired Buffalo' ( ]


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