Sunday, July 12, 2015

Maryland Biscuits

Maryland Biscuits
Julia Griffiths, now an English dowager of sorts, step-mother to three girls, sent her greetings to Anna Douglass and fondly recalled the American woman's "Maryland biscuits."

That seemed a strange designation until I realized that Julia, being English, would likely not have encountered the American version of a "biscuit," ours being closer to an English scone and we referring to English version of biscuits as "cookies." (Mmmmmm.....cookie!) So, I imagined a scene in which Anna served biscuits to Julia, who asked what they were. Anna said, "biscuits," to which Julia said something like "these aren't like biscuits in England," and Anna replied, "well, these are Maryland biscuits."

Then, I came across a letter from Louisa Sprague, who lived with the Douglasses from 1871 until Anna died and Frederick remarried. She, too, was from Maryland, although not the same part as Anna. Anna came from the Eastern Shore and Louisa was probably from Prince Georges County. Louisa wrote to Frederick: "this is Sunday morning and I thought instead of making marlland Biskits I would try send you a line." [i]

"Marland Biskits": Maryland biscuits.  Louisa would have no need to designate these as particular, unless there were, in fact a particular kind of biscuit. So, using Prof. Google (shhh...don't tell!) I found that they were, in fact a type of biscuit made by beating the dough to make it rise. (Why would beating make it rise? Science.) The recipe is specific to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Anna probably learned how to make them from her mother.

I also like to think that beating the dough was her form of therapy, not just when Frederick and the kids bothered her, but when she had to think of the things they went through. I also like to think that, if Julia remembered them, they must have been tasty.

[i] Louisa Sprague to FD, Washington, D.C., 15 July 1883, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.

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