Why "Beaten Biscuit?"

A beaten biscuit is made from dough that has quite literally been beaten. The ingredients are as rudimentary as they come: flour, salt, lard, water. These are mixed, and the dough is turned out and beaten with a blunt object until smooth. A hickory-handled hammer is my weapon of choice, but a rolling pin will do as well. The length of this process can be measured in minutes (15 – 30) or “whacks” (100 – 200). Hammering in this way releases a good amount of gluten from the flour, producing a dough that is sublimely smooth. The result, after a trip to the oven, is a palish round of bread that is at once rustic and refined.

Anyone who has made these biscuits knows that it gives contemporary cooks an appreciation for the labor involved in their grandmothers’ cooking. What’s more, it can provide an appreciation for the value of this labor. Using brute force to transform a scrappy lump into silk-white dough is a catharsis like no other. In the end, an act that appears in every way to be destructive–pounding madly at an elastic ball–proves constructive, and out of a near-violent process rises our daily bread.

Anyone who has written a poem knows that it can give contemporary writers an appreciation for the labor that transpired at the desks of the greatest poets. To write poetry is to wildly hammer together words in the desperate hope that the result will bring pleasure. If a poem is to be worth reading, the writing process must be anything but delicate. In the same way that whacking biscuit dough can be a physical catharsis, the creation of poetry can be an explosive expurgation of emotion.

Like a biscuit, poetry should be nourishing yet unassuming. It should not be an affectation of effete intellectuals or moony English majors lounging in libraries. Poetry is a staple. It is not a precious petit four on cut glass kissed by curtain-filtered light. It is a beaten biscuit on a well-worn cutting board in the fat light of a summer morning.

Eat up.