Every time I plan a trip, I research the local food. It doesn’t matter where you go, even if it’s just a two-hour drive away, there is always something that the local area specialises in. I have a travelling philosophy which is, ‘eat where the locals eat, and eat what the locals eat’. You can learn so much about people and places by the food.
I went to North Carolina a few months ago and I was pretty keen to try biscuits and gravy. To me, biscuits just look like scones, which are a very English thing; fluffy and slightly sweetened, served with jam and freshly whipped cream. Utterly delicious. I watched a few Southern cooking youtube videos and learnt that American biscuits are definitely not scones, and I was excited to try them.
Jim took me to Cagney’s Restaurant for my first biscuit. He ordered the big breakfast, but still on Australia time my stomach was telling me it was asleep and I’d regret anything heavier than a glass of water. I decided to go light (by American breakfast standards) and ordered one biscuit with a side of gravy. Not sausage gravy mind you, just the white gravy. The waitress seemed a bit offended— surely that’s not enough food she exclaimed! When I explained, in my Australian accent which amused her, that I wanted to experience my first biscuit and gravy, she was very happy, assuring me I’d love it. It arrived at the table in minutes. It was huge! So fluffy and light, warm and inviting. The gravy didn’t look that appetizing, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. I broke off a small piece of the warm biscuit and put it in my mouth. It was delicious. A similar texture to a scone, but lighter, and a more buttery flavour. The gravy was also ridiculously good; what I would describe as a white sauce— floury, but the perfect mixture of salty, savoury, peppery, and creamy. I asked Jim how he liked to eat biscuits and gravy, and he showed me how he liked to pour the gravy on top, and use a knife and fork to eat them. I don’t like anything soggy, and I didn’t want to lose the fluffy texture of the biscuit, so I simply broke off bits of biscuit and dunked them in the gravy. Occasionally I’d just use a spoon and eat the gravy like a soup. I was hooked from that point on, and looked for biscuits everywhere I went.
At Charlotte airport, as I waited for my flight back to Honolulu, I had enough time to grab a quick breakfast before boarding. It was about 6 am, and although not overly hungry, I knew I wouldn’t be provided breakfast on the trip. I had a quick look at the food options at the domestic terminal, and walking past Bojangles, which I’d never been to before, I saw a pretty, dark-skinned woman making biscuits behind a large window. I was mesmerised! She kneaded that dough with such care and expertise, and would occasionally turn to take a fresh batch of biscuits out of the oven. I had to have one. Scouring the menu, I chose a hot cinnamon biscuit and a large coffee. After placing my order I waited off to the side, and within minutes I was handed the most incredible smelling biscuit drizzled with a cinnamon glaze. I was drooling like a rabid dog as I carried it to the closest table, and stuffed it down like my life depended on it. At that point, I think it did. I washed the sugary treat down with a disgusting cup of coffee, but hey, it was caffeine, and I had a long flight ahead of me.
Biscuits are my new favourite thing— a real treat, and I wonder why they haven’t taken off in Australia. I am keen to return and try a fried chicken biscuit, but I can guarantee it won’t be for breakfast. Until then, I will enjoy scones with jam and cream, and dream of Bojangles, the cinnamon delight, and that delicious gravy.