Ahhh, the pleasures of Sunday brunch. Such a civil interlude in a day designated for respite, prayer, and reflection. Translation: golf, gardening, and grocery shopping. In the midst of an al fresco meal, my friends marveled at the perfect Bloody Mary and a fine-ass biscuit. As we were waxing on about the exalted pleasures of said biscuit, one dining companion recounted that the best one she ever ate was Miss June’s penitentiary biscuit.
I’m sorry, did you say prison biscuit? “That’s a negative, cowgirl, the proper name is Miss June’s Penitentiary Biscuits.” More accurately, gentle reader, the name is “Miss June’s Alleged Penitentiary Biscuits” as I would like to avoid that little mess Dan Rather got into over the Killian documents.
2 c. White Lily Self Rising Flour
1 c. whipping cream (don’t whip it; use it straight from the carton)
Add the cream to the flour until it barely holds together—do not touch dough too much. Roll out about an inch thick. Cut out with an empty, small jar (like the kind that holds Kraft pimento cheese spread) dipped in flour. Bake at 425 degrees until golden. In my oven that’s 12 minutes.
Miss June knew someone who knew someone else that worked at the Brushy Mountain Penitentiary. Apparently there was a time when it became evident that inmates were using biscuits as weapons. This problem was of magnificent proportions as Jujutsu Biscuit Throwers cannot, and will not, be tolerated. The search for the perfect buttery soft biscuit had new gravitas, as it was surely the crucible of maintaining a safe and orderly environment. Enter the angelic qualities of the revered and nationally beloved White Lily Flour. Known for its unearthly lightness, the flour is the stuff of cherubim bakers. Pity that the mill was folded in 2008. Like many of my neighbors, I rebuke Smucker’s for locking the doors of an authentic Southern icon and Knoxville treasure.
The Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex, Tennessee’s oldest operating penitentiary, closed a year after the White Lily Sanctum Sanctorum milled its last batch of soft winter wheat. The prison had been open for 113 years and held some of the most violent inmates in the state. It was known as “the end of the line” because troublesome inmates from other prisons were transferred to Brushy Mountain as the ultimate punishment. This was a scary and serious place that housed assassins, rapists, and the scourge of society. From a management perspective, I can see why one might ponder the benefits of softer biscuits and more contented inmates.
At least we can cleave to a last glorious shadow from the alleged love child borne from two East Tennessee institutions. Both reduced to bones laying in the half-life of the grist they produced.
I tell you what: I made those alleged biscuits. I ate those alleged biscuits. They were mouthgasmic. While they were baking, I read about Brushy, the inmates, and Morgan County. I tried to imagine the warden’s office and Death Row. I saw the cafeteria with pans of mourning powdered eggs, government issued Velveeta cheese, and trays of innocent little biscuits waiting to be split and devoured. Until the 1960s, corporal punishment was commonly used on inmates. Despite its hardcore reputation, the last warden of Brushy Mountain, Jim Worthington, received many letters from inmates at other prisons asking to be moved to his facility. This prison’s lure even reached into fiction. In The Silence of The Lambs, the cannibalistic gourmand, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, requested a transfer to our very own Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex.
I’m thinking it had to be those biscuits.