A recipe for flying biscuits

By: Broderick Turner

Everybody will tell you that they grandma is magical.

But I know my granny was magic.

“You can’t get this old and this Black without knowing a few tricks.”

She said that a lot. I say that a lot now too.

But like most black ladies of a certain age, she was invisible to most people.

Which is a magic onto itself.

She did have a lot of tricks, though, if you paid enough attention.

You paying attention, right?

She could make one roll of aluminum foil last a decade.

She could open the tightest pickle jars by tapping a spoon to the lid at just the right spot.

And she could appear, instantly behind me, whenever I tried to sneak an extra cookie.

Heck, I once saw her pull an entire honey-baked ham from her crocheted purse

(And when I told my mama this happened, she told me to stop telling stories).

But her greatest magic was her biscuits.

My granny, and my granny’s granny before her, made flying biscuits.

If you ate one, while it was still warm and the butter was just melty enough, and you had a spoonful of her Sphinx-Berry Jam, you would float, just for a second or two, about three inches off the ground.

My mom used to tell me that her dad left her and her mama to start another family with a woman who was more down to earth.

But my granny told me the truth. My grandaddy was greedy and ate too many flying biscuits (’cause you should really have no more than two at any one sitting) and he floated away.

My granny would tell me, “Your mama never believed in magic. She was too book-smart.

Too good at those people’s school to hear the magic.”

Those people is what my granny called white folks.

Those people is what I call white folks too.

And my granny would look at me, every time she told me about the magic, and ask, “Can you hear it? Can you hear it too?”

And I wanted to hear it so bad.

So, I listened and tried to remember every detail of every story. But I wasn’t my mama and remembering didn’t come as easy to me as it did for her.

My granny told me that a few of our folks, who came over here under boats, carried magic with them. But most of those people couldn’t hear our folks when they told those people about magic.

And then our folks started listening more and more to those people, because those people had whips, and guns, and bibles that told dry stories where only a few men like Jesus and Moses, had any magic.

But granny knew like her granny knew that long before we were someone’s property, our folks had a lot more magic.

Those people that COULD hear our folks’ magic either ignored what they heard (for fear of being labelled a loon) or worst of all, called what they heard scientific breakthroughs or miracle discoveries, and then those people erased our folks’ magic and replaced it with textbooks and pipettes.

But it wasn’t no miracles, just the right old stories, told in the right way, passed down from grandmas to granddaughters from uncles to nephews from mouth to ear.

So much magic passed in whispers.

And so much magic lost.

“And that’s why I’m telling you these stories, my dear. You are my most precious grandbaby,” my grandma said that to me often.

“I’m your only grandbaby,” I’d always smile back.

“I know, that’s why you so precious.”

My granny told me about the woman who made yams that would make you cry.

She told me about the man who made dandelion greens that could make any man stronger than six (and she says that’s where those people stole the idea of Popeye the sailor).

There was old man named Onesimus who was able to stop viruses with some sick on a stick long before Jonas Stalk or Madame Curie or whoever. But most of our folks and those people thought he was crazy even though he saved a bunch of people’s lives in what was supposed to be the Virginia plague of 1854. But there was no Virginia plague of 1854, because of Onesimus’ magic.

She even told me that one of Sally Hemmings’ boys made a dish from noodles, cheese, and touch of dried dragon’s tooth that could make a man submit to any command of the person who held the mixing spoon. But that Hemming’s boy walked into the ocean to keep ol’TJ from getting the recipe and ruling Monticello with an even heavier hand.

At least we got mac and cheese out the deal, even though those people are always trying to cut corners and mix orange powder and water from a box.

There was one story about a lady who knew she was going to be stolen from her home and put under a ship, so she hid a bunch of seeds that she spoke instructions to everyday, collected in waxy cassava leaf, tucked in place she prayed no one would touch during the voyage, and when she was finally sold to a poor planter in the swampland, the magic tucked between her legs, gave birth to Carolina gold rice, which was the biggest, most important crop in the world for a very long time. But those people all forgot about her. My granny didn’t forget though. You won’t forget either, will you?

Sorry. Where was I?

Flying biscuits?

Now pay attention. Granny told me the recipe. And I hope I remember it right.

Its, 2 coffee cups of all-purpose flour

1 part baking soda and 1 part sugar

A pinch (pronounced pinch) of salt

A pinch (pronounce PANCH which is a bit more than just a pinch but not as much as a swiggle) of fairies’ tears

A whole stick of butter-unsalted

Some shavings of ruby-red bittercress, for flavoring and floating

A cup of buttermilk

And a smidge of blind jackelope heart-blood to confuse gravity.

Then you make them into palm size balls. Put them on a lightly greased baking sheet, covered with decade old aluminum foil

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until the first biscuit just starts to float.

Let them cool just a little bit, and then eat one warm and when the butter is just melty enough, with a spoonful of Sphinx-Berry Jam (I’ll show you how to make that later),

and then you will float,

just for a second or two,

about three inches off the ground.

But don’t eat more than two, or then you might float away like my granddaddy did.

You know, it’s been so long since I made these.

I tried to make them for your mama. But she was like my mama. Too book-smart. Too good at those people’s school to hear the magic.

But I can tell you got the same thing I had.

You got that listening ear.

And you going to remember the stories and the whispers.

Can you hear the magic, yet?

No bother, grandmas know things. We are all a little bit magic.

I know you ready to fly, my most precious grandbaby.

And this is where you say, “I’m your only grandbaby.”

I know, that’s why you so precious.

Assistant Professor of Marketing @ The Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech

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Broderick Turner

Assistant Professor of Marketing @ The Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech