|A huge mixing bowl is used to make 80 biscuits.|
My first year as a biscuit-maker at the N.C. State Fair is now in the history book, and I am very happy with my experience. I was fortunate to work with dedicated people who have worked many years at the booth of Cary United Methodist Church, which is the longest-serving food vendor at the fair and is renowned for its biscuits, especially country ham.
|Cary United Methodist Church, which first opened its booth at the fair in 1916, is the longest-serving food vendor.|
First ExperienceThe biscuits that I made at the fair were far superior to than the ones made at the training class. I was surprised at how good they looked. Midway through the first shift I had a 10-minute break, so I took a ham biscuit outside to eat. It’s hard to be modest. I don’t think I’ve eaten a better biscuit.
|Biscuits just taken out of the oven are ready for the "stuffers."|
The shifts that I worked were all in the afternoon, so I missed the morning crowd that comes early and wants biscuits for breakfast as well as the late-night fairgoers who order a few (or a dozen) ham biscuits to take home for the next day. In one five-hour afternoon shift about 600 biscuits were made—a busy time—but the previous shift that morning had baked 1,360 (in six hours).
|Ham cooking has to keep up with the orders, too.|
Fortunately for my first experience I was paired with a veteran biscuit-maker. Suzy worked five days this year, which is her seventh consecutive one. I could tell that she had been a kindergarten teacher: She was very patient and positive, and she offered tips and ideas that were helpful.
|Biscuit "stuffers" keep busy fulfilling all the orders.|
Biscuits at the FairMaking biscuits at the fair was almost the same as at the training class except we kept making tray after tray after tray. The biggest difference is at the fair most teams don’t make biscuits by feel—we use a recipe! Six parts flour to one part shortening. For each batch, we used 24 cups of self-rising flour, 4 cups of shortening, and 3 quarts of buttermilk. (Don’t try this at home unless you want to make 80 biscuits.) Otherwise, the process is the same as in the class.
|Customers sit and await patiently their orders inside the booth.|
For only $2, the ham biscuit is a hot seller, and we ran out briefly for only a few minutes one afternoon. Otherwise, we had hot biscuits ready for orders, although when someone ordered a dozen to go followed by another person who wanted ten biscuits to take home, we had to expedite the tray that we were making.
|The kitchen space is limited, but everyone works as a team.|
Best Biscuits EverWhen a young family was eating biscuits near my work area, I leaned over and asked if they were the best biscuits ever. The mother nodded and gave a thumbs-up sign. When I told her that it was my first day, we exchanged expressions that indicated we both were surprised.
|"Veteran" biscuit-maker Suzy and I made a LOT of biscuits.|
Now that I’m an authentic biscuit-maker, I’ve joined the circle of legendary bakers who have made biscuits for more than a century at the state fair. I hope to return next year and continue the tradition.