Around the time my wife Katie and I moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1997, I began working on a documentary film project about the Benson Sing, an annual Southern gospel singing in convention in my hometown of Benson, NC that began in 1921. This project grew out of my longtime interests in oral history, music, film, performance, and community. Visits home to work on the project gave me additional opportunities to visit my family. On one visit home, at Sunday dinner at Grandma Peedin's house, I casually asked Grandma Do you remember the first time you made biscuits? (Growing up, we went to Grandma Peedin's almost every Sunday after church, driving 30 minutes up I-95 from Benson to Micro, North Carolina, to visit and eat a huge Sunday dinner with two or three meat dishes, all kind of vegetables harvested from her garden, sweet tea, a couple of desserts and biscuits, always hot, homemade biscuits. From Sunday to Sunday, no matter what was on the table, the one constant was her biscuits.) A natural storyteller, Grandma smiled big and launched into a wonderful story about being 11 years old, the oldest of nine siblings, and being told by her father, a farmer, that she would have to learn how to make the biscuits because her mother was pregnant and soon wouldnt be able to make them. After she finished I immediately asked her if I could come back one weekend to film her making biscuits and make an audio recording of her story. This is the result of two visits with Grandma to learn how to make those biscuits. (I still can't make 'em the way she did, but hey, she'd been making them for 66 years when I filmed her!) For those who want to know: I filmed her making biscuits on Super 8 film (yes, the old home movie format) without sound and recorded the story at a different time using a Tascam DA-P1 digital audiotape recorder and Shure SM57 microphone (she sat with her shoes off and legs curled up in a nice, comfy chair -- I positioned the mic on a stand right in front of her). UPDATE: About a month before Thanksgiving 2010, I got the idea to make Grandma's biscuits as a surprise for my mom and the Peedin-Parrish family. For a variety of reasons, we hadn't had Thanksgiving with my folks for several years and this seemed like the perfect excuse to start making Grandma's biscuits instead of talking about it. My wife Katie and two children, Logan and Waverly, all got in the action and had a blast (i.e. there was flour everywhere!). That batch turned out OK but definitely not as good as Grandma's. Well, as it turned out, that was the only practice run I got in before the big day. I took her pans, glass (you know, the one I drank water out of) and flour but bought the lard and buttermilk in Benson (it's easier to find). My Thanksgiving Day batch turned out good enough to for my mom to ask if I'd make them for breakfast the next morning to accompany the sausage. That second batch was a little better. Mom then asked if I'd make them for breakfast the following morning because her brother was coming over and she knew "he'd like to have some of Mother's biscuits." Again, they were better than before. Finally, I got asked to make them for a fourth time to go with hamburger steak and gravy (you gotta have biscuits with that!). It was a lot of fun and it really brought Grandma alive as we all shared stories, ate biscuits, watched the film again, laughed and cried a little. Now, if I can just keep at it, in 66 years I'll be a biscuit master and master storyteller, just like Grandma.

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