A Brief Bit of Biscuit History

I can smell it now:  The aroma of biscuits baking in the oven.

And not the kind that you pop out of a can!


Rising to The Occasion

So just what is the history of the humble biscuit?

Well, it begins way before supermarkets began peddling cylinders of refrigerated dough.

You can thank Mr. Lively B. Willoughby for patenting that bad idea in 1931. 


No Half-Baked Origin

The name biscuit is derived from the Latin word “biscoctus” meaning “twice-cooked,”.

You’ll recognize the root of this word in the Italian name for their delightful treat, biscotti.

Twice-baked means biscuits were first baked and then dried in a low temperature oven.

This biscuit preserving process provided food that didn’t readily spoil and  nourished ancient mariners and soldiers on their long journeys.

The Egyptians called their version of biscuits a dhourra cake. For the Romans it was buccellum which they served with honey and pepper.

During his third Crusade to the Middle East, Richard the Lionheart brought a “biskit of muslin” made of corn, rye and barley flour.

And during the Spanish Armada conflict in 1588, a daily allowance for an English Royal Navy sailor was one pound of biscuit and one gallon of beer.


Biscuits Embraced in the New World

It didn’t take long for the beloved biscuit to land on American shores and plates. 

In the pre-Civil War South, biscuits were a prized delicacy and mostly eaten during lunch or dinner on Sundays.

It’s thought that Southerners had the advantage when it came to cooking biscuits with a soft winter wheat growing climate.

To save time, the “cathead” biscuit was born by simply dropping clumps of the buttery dough onto a baking sheet.

And during the Civil War, the indestructible “hardtack” biscuit was a staple to soldiers on both sides.


Biscuit History and Cowboy Culture

If you’ve had a chuck wagon meal, you may be familiar with “Cowboy” biscuits cooked in iron dutch ovens.

Can you hear the song, “Home on the Range” in the background?

I’m sure that never a “discouraging word” was heard around the campfire when these baked beauties were browning in a cast iron oven.

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