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My Mama’s Biscuits

By Robert Alston

     The aroma of buttered biscuits filled my nostrils upon entering the doorway. It was my mama’s biscuits (as Martin Lawrence would say), and no one on earth could make them like her. The secret to her biscuits was not kept away in a cupboard or hidden in a safe but rested in the palms of her hands. Those hands worked miracles as she turned knobs on the stove and gently patted the biscuits to check for fluffiness. Alongside the biscuits was a steamy pot of her world-class Hamburger Helper. The contents came from a box, and she added to them, her love. The golden cheese that flowed through the macaroni and ground beef united them with a oneness that produced miracles in my mouth. Following every bite of her cheesy delight came a bite of her pillowy, flaky biscuits. Before I could ask for something to drink, my mom would hand me a tall glass of iced ginger ale.  She knew me better than I knew myself.

     College food paled in comparison to my mother’s cooking.  Some may attribute my mother’s victory to her well-used pans or her culinary skills, but I believe it is because of the love that flowed through her hands as she made my food. I am sure the cafeteria cooks do so with love, but my mother’s food was different - it was personal. Every college student knows that there is nothing like coming home for winter or spring break and food filling the air.

     And the atmosphere was symbiotic, both parties were filled with joy. I sat at her wooden table and praised her while licking the bowl, and she smiled in the kitchen, spreading the pink icing on a tri-layered cake. The taste and smell filled my brain with good-feeling chemicals; the food filled my stomach, and nostalgia filled my heart while my mother filled up with joy at the sight of it all. 

     This was our tradition for all of my undergraduate years. Weary from endless hours of studying for final exams, I always knew that if I could get home, my mother would be there to make everything alright. I was blessed to go to college, given our humble beginnings. I was fourth of five boys and believe me when I say, we were more than a handful.  She worked 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week to provide for us, and we were never without. Though we didn’t have much, I never knew it. She always made sure we had new clothes at the beginning of the school year, gifts under the Christmas tree, candles on birthday cakes, money in birthday cards and food in our bellies.  I am convinced that she passed along to us the recipes that she inherited from her mother, and she served us as if we were five kings at a round table. Smothered pork chops and rice with mixed vegetables, crispy fried chicken and greens, jumbo turkey legs and her world-class potato salad are just a few of the meals.


     But not every meal was as decadent. Some were as simple as hot dogs and beans, bologna sandwiches with ramen noodles and chicken nuggets with fries. While my brothers had their favorites, for me, it was her Hamburger Helper and biscuits. Every other meal she made was left in the dust compared to this one, and she knew of my love for it. So, it was her gift to me every time I came home from school. A gift I cherished and always looked forward to, simple food made with love.

     The days of me coming home from college lessened when I graduated and married my wife. The time had come for me to make memories with her, to enjoy the food her mother made for her and share with her what my mother made for me. But, those days did not disappear altogether, for when I tell my mother that we are coming to visit, though her bones have stiffened a little and a few wrinkles have been grafted into her hands, I can always count on the aroma of my mama’s biscuits filling my nostrils and a pot of cheesy hamburger helper waiting for me on her wooden table.

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