There is nothing artisanal about Bisquick. But it makes me feel connected to family members who used it during other trying times.
I barely tolerate yoga, but one teacher in my hometown persuaded me that it’s a good way to manage stress and build community. On the day before Charlotte, North Carolina, effectively shut down, Amy organized a special outdoor class in a pavilion where everyone could follow coronavirus social distancing rules. Lying on my mat on the cold concrete, looking up at the rafters that formed a type of steeple, I felt a flash of hope that our city would be okay.
As reports of rapidly increasing infection rates started to roll in, though, I forgot about yoga. There was just so much to figure out. Teaching two elementary-age kids at home was more daunting than moving my two college classes online. And cooking became more difficult. I couldn’t get the ingredients I was used to, but we had to eat, so I started making substitutions: Bisquick instead of flour, Egg Beaters instead of the eggs that no grocery store in the city seemed to carry.
I am a Southerner, born and raised in southwest Virginia, which is not to be confused with what lies north of Richmond. I am used to folks mocking our use of “inauthentic” ingredients, but in a pinch, I fell back on my Southern ways. There is nothing artisanal about Bisquick. Egg Beaters are about as far from free-range farm eggs as you can get. But you know what? Bisquick makes waffles that help my children smile, despite being separated from their friends for 19 weeks now. Bisquick, combined with a bag of Kraft pre-shredded cheddar cheese and a pound of processed Jimmy Dean hot sausage, makes the delicious sausage balls my Arkansas-raised mother-in-law taught me to cook. Egg Beaters, added to boxed yellow cake mix and shaped into a bunny (the way my mom taught me), got covered with homemade chocolate icing for Easter dessert.
I couldn’t get the ingredients I was used to, but we had to eat, so I started making substitutions: Bisquick instead of flour, Egg Beaters instead of the eggs that no grocery store in the city seemed to carry.
Hunting for ingredients in my mother-in-law’s kitchen in Mooresville, North Carolina, where we’d gratefully relocated for months after the full quarantine lockdown, I found a dedicated plastic Bisquick container, likely purchased in the 70s, listing several recipes for creating Bisquick glory. I’d come to mock Bisquick over time, but now I felt connected to family members who had used it over the years to make satisfying dishes for their families, regardless of trying circumstances.
We’ve since come back to Charlotte. Flour is available, but virtual baking classes do not entertain my children nearly as well as my mother-in-law. I’m still making sausage balls, dropping them off on friends’ porches, but yoga will have to wait.
As quarantine began, my yoga teacher adapted ancient teachings to soothingly link a bunch of worried strangers, but Bisquick tied me to generations of Southerners who found ways to connect with their families and friends through cooking. Bisquick is cheap. Bisquick is basic. And for me, Bisquick is the truth.