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A biscuit is one of the world’s great road-trip foods. It’s fast to make and eat, portable, good hot or cold, and can swing savory or sweet. You can use it for a sandwich or to round out a bowl of chili or piece of chicken. Which is why it’s so difficult to understand why there are so many truly awful biscuits out there.

Take McDonald’s, for instance—consistency is one thing, but why do they make things so complicated? Their biscuit is an ungodly blend of 47 ingredients, including high-fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, liquid margarine, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), and both natural (why bother?) and artificial flavors.

Nowadays, even the most down-home roadside diners tend to rely on a commercial mix. The dispiriting results can be overly salty or have a chemical aftertaste that likely comes from too much double-acting baking powder. In texture, they can be flabby or too fluffy. There’s no there there.

And that is why, on our annual drive to a North Carolina beach, we often take a round-about route that allows us to visit friends along the way—and grab a quick meal at Biscuitville. The fast-food chain was started back in 1975 by Maurice Jennings, a flour broker in Danville, Virginia. Today, Maurice’s son, Burney Jennings, heads up some 50 restaurants in Virginia and North Carolina.

Biscuitville biscuits are made fresh (every 20 minutes) from scratch using simple, wholesome ingredients. The ladies who see to the biscuits are simultaneously brisk and gentle: They knead and roll as little as possible, and when they stamp out rounds of dough, they never, ever twist the cutter, pinching the edges together and thus inhibiting the rise. In their own meditative world, they hardly ever look up, even when kids press their noses against the glass.

The Biscuitville menu boasts a dizzying array of sandwiches, including sausage, smoked sausage, turkey sausage, bacon, ham, gravy, steak, pork chop, bologna, and chicken three ways—fried, grilled, or spicy. Eggs and/or cheese are common embellishments.

Personally, I like a plain sausage biscuit, without any distractions. But on this trip, I was intrigued by the special the company had just rolled out: a pimento cheese and bacon biscuit. Sam wasn’t surprised when I ordered both—research, you know—but he was when I ate every last crumb. “How can you eat mayonnaise so early in the day?” he asked. “Tell me you’re not going to lick the paper.”

Biscuits, of course, are so simple to make at home you won’t believe it. The recipe I use is that of southern chef Scott Peacock. He is constantly tweaking and finessing, and you’ll find a recent version (including directions for his homemade baking powder, which takes three minutes) in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living under the rubric “One Perfect Thing.” We weren’t exaggerating.


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