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Catheads to buttermilk: The business of biscuits

biscuit-maker

BIG, FLUFFY, AND DON’T SCRIMP ON THE BUTTER - Biscuit Maker owner Bambi Winfrey and her crew bake hundreds of biscuits from the carry-out only location every morning. Breakfast biscuits are sold to hungry, on-the-go customers at convenience stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains across the county.

Damon Howell / Photo

 

Just before 9 a.m. on Friday, Betty McCoy, the cook at West End General Store, was filling orders as quickly as they came in. Fresh eggs were cracked. Bacon sizzled on the flat iron. A hot pan of cathead biscuits was coming out of the oven. 

A few customers got their breakfast on a plate and bellied up at tables inside, but most stood in line at the register to take their foil-wrapped rations to go. 

The scene mimicked so many other convenience stores and fast food chains in the morning – a frenzied rush of people who want to eat breakfast quickly before the work day, coupled with old timers and early risers who’d rather sit and enjoy. Each meal is different – some have tenderloin, some country ham, others bacon and eggs or gravy - but the common thread is the biscuit, a point of culinary pride for Southerners that evokes passionate discussion and clear-cut opinions about what makes one good. 

Only a few generations ago biscuits were made at home by women, a mom or grandma, but the landscape has changed

drastically with the rise of convenience consumerism. The biscuit crept into fast food chains and gas stations and is now at the heart of the new South’s culinary repertoire, and a driving sales force for convenience stores and restaurants that serve them. At West End, they sell about 120 biscuits a day, but that’s just one location out of many. Every morning, thousands of biscuits are sold in Pickens County; tens of thousands in a week. 

Breakfast biscuits are big business, and while they seem simple on the surface – a batch of flour and lard and buttermilk, or the frozen “pucks” sold at many fast food chains - there’s a lot that went into making them the staple they are today.  

         See full story in this week's print or online editions. 

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