All You Knead

Stephanie Hunt

Maybe it was Sandy's high winds or our recent astronomical tides, I'm not sure, but I do know that Thanksgiving has blown in early this year. About four weeks early by my calculations. Heck, I'm holding out for my husband to make a few more batches of summer gazpacho, and I've yet to do my Halloween candy shopping. I'm in denial as boxes of Stove Top stare me down from the end of the grocery aisles. Stuff it, I say.


I've got nothing against Thanksgiving. I'm a huge fan of gratitude mixed with roasted Brussels sprouts, Zinfandel, and pecan pie. I love a diverse gathering of pilgrims on various pilgrimages, native peoples in native attire and free-range birds of various feathers, with a roasted chestnut or two. I'm just not ready to get sucked into Thanksgiving's vortex that pulls you in to one end of the little wicker cornucopia then spits you out the other one into full holiday tilt and whirl. Another four weeks and I may be able to stomach snow globes and Bing Crosby, but I'd love to wrap up my August to-do list first.


But the turkey won't wait, and so, probably like you, my reading of late is of the 1 tablespoon of this and 2 cups of that variety. I'm thumbing through Food & Wine, revisiting forgotten cookbooks, stumbling upon new ones and generally rummaging through recipes. Which means I'm also lusting after improbably luscious food porn photos where sweet potatoes glisten and pomegranate seeds spill out of their ripe, fleshy fruit in an artsy nonchalance that you don't want to believe is contrived, much less sprayed with WD-40 for that just-so sheen. (More on that in a subsequent post.)


But back to the recipes.... one of my favorite of the just-baked batch of cookbooks is Nathalie Dupree's Southern Biscuits, because like Nathalie, it's delightfully flakey and much more back-to-basics than frou frou foodie pretense. We're talking lard, my friends. And gluten. And oh yes, butter and white flour. All the prohibitions of an increasingly wholier-than-thou whole and artisanal food scene. Now it's all about sourcing. Whatever happened to just plain eatin'?


Nathalie is a no-nonsense tour de force in Charleston, both as a hostess and party girl (a die-hard, hell-yeah Democrat), and a dame (literally, a Dame d'Escoffier) of the Southern culinary front. She's much more clumsy, classy Julia Child than cutesy Paula Deen, thank gawd, and is more interested in celebrating good food and hospitality than branding herself.


So here's to adding biscuits and a bit of white fluff to your Thanksgiving table. A nod to tradition, a bite of a simplified era, where a little flour and butter, some just-so kneading and a slather of honey or jam is about all you need. It's good recession food, actually, and my just send you over the flavor cliff.