Every year or two my late grandfather Herod Brim would make a trip in his 1951 GMC pickup truck from the Brim Hollow all the way to Willette, Tn., in Macon County to get a load of cook stove wood. Prior to the trip he would make arrangements with the sawmill operator to saw up a designated amount of rejected hardwood slabs into 12 to 14 inch pieces. When he returned, he would have his pickup truck bed loaded to the top with stove wood.
As a boy, on numerous occasions, I observed him on his return as he backed up the pickup truck to unload. He would pitch the pieces of wood into a big wood pile and then cover it with an old car hood to keep it dry. Later, as my grandmother needed it, he would split the sections of hardwood into small pieces on a chopping block with his favorite “little axe.”
My grandmother Lena could work magic with a wood cook stove. Although she had an electric stove, she only used it for cooking during the hottest days of the year. Her preference for cooking was her wood stove.
She could fire up her wood stove and have it going in an instant. And she had a knack for controlling the temperature of the oven and the caps on top of the stove with amazing accuracy. It was a pure pleasure to watch her work in the kitchen.
An active member of the Riddleton Home Demonstration Club for many years, my grandmother developed quite a reputation in the Riddleton community for being an accomplished seamstress and a drop-dead good cook. She achieved a kind of local fame for what people in the community came to call “Miss Lena’s little biscuits.” In all my life I’ve never come across biscuits like the ones she made.
The late Clyde Allen Woodard, a long-time resident of the Riddleton community, raised tobacco for my grandfather in the Brim Hollow for many years. Having eaten dinner at my grandmother’s table on numerous occasions, Clyde Allen developed a fondness for “Miss Lena’s little biscuits.” Sometimes she would send him home with a plate-full.
In the fifty-odd years that have passed since my grandfather died, I visited with Mr. Woodard on many occasions. In our numerous conversations he never failed to mention “Miss Lena’s little biscuits.”
Through the years since my days in the Brim Hollow I have heard of biscuits called “silver dollar biscuits.” That’s what Granny Lena’s might have been. They were no bigger than a silver dollar. They were soft, light, round-topped biscuits. My late mother noted over the years that if you left Granny Lena’s biscuits out overnight, they were still soft in the morning. She suspected that Granny Lena’s secret lay in a little crock in which she refrigerated her biscuit dough overnight prior to the next morning’s baking.
My grandfather Brim always kept a Jersey milk cow on his farm. Anybody with a farm raisin’ knows that a Jersey cow’s milk is high in butterfat. My grandmother churned that cow’s milk into some of the finest butter there ever was.
I can see her now, sitting in the utility room in front of the screen door where the cool air was being pulled into the house from the nearby shade trees, working the wooden handle in the butter churn, up and down, up and down. When the butter was sufficiently separated, she would form it into a mold and set it in the butter dish. It was what the late Jerry Clower called real “cow salve” butter, deep and rich yellow in color.
Many a time I have taken one of “Miss Lena’s little biscuits” fresh out of the oven and opened it up to let the steam out. Then I would slice off some butter with a knife and lay it on half of that biscuit. As soon as it hit the biscuit that butter started to disappear. Then I would spoon out some homemade crabapple jelly and spread it on the biscuit where that butter had just vanished.
When I laid that combination on my tongue it would disappear in my mouth as fast as that butter disappeared into that little biscuit. It was so good I would rush to fix the next half. I could polish off a half-dozen of those little biscuits in no time flat.
Those little biscuits were something else! The very thought of them makes me smile, and think of a sweet little bow-legged woman known as “Miss Lena” who could work magic in the kitchen.
Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author. A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2021 by Jack McCall.