The Abominable Biscuit

August 25, 2015 | By | Comments (13)
Illustration by: Jack Unruh

Illustration by: Jack Unruh

I am not sure when I became a grouchy old man, a crotchety relic. I just know I am.

If you ask me how I am doing, I will respond, “Fine…but it’s early.” It may not be my fault, completely. Part of it is age. I used to go in the drugstore and buy a Hershey’s bar and a yo-yo. Now, I go in the drugstore and buy drugs. You are unlikely to skip down the sidewalk clutching a three-month supply of metformin and a quart bottle of amlodipine. And reading glasses. I am always losing my reading glasses.

The rest of it we will blame on the hotel breakfast buffet, the nightmarish 21st-century phenomenon dishonestly referred to as a “hot bar.” I think that is where I turned the corner from optimist and went stumbling off down the path to miserable old geezer. I believe, somewhere between the desiccated bacon and scrambled eggs so awful there is no known word, I just lost hope.

Maybe it would be easier if I were not a Southerner, who grew up on breakfasts that made waking up a joy. There were soft scrambled eggs with crumbled sausage, thick slab bacon, soft biscuits, milk gravy, sliced tomatoes, fresh cantaloupe. My mother, my aunts, even my uncles made it an art. In lean times, they turned fried bologna and biscuits with water gravy into a delicacy.

But that is a million miles from the canned heat of an expense-account hotel.

I travel a bit. My people, who have no interest in leaving northern Calhoun County unless it slides into a sinkhole, do not believe that is glamorous. They have traveled enough to know that, beyond the county line, pork sausage links are slowly petrifying inside a stainless steel coffin under a chemical fire.

Still, I love to meet the people who read my work. I bear the sadist airlines. I man up to the 5:30 a.m. talk shows. I once followed a dog that barked Christmas carols. I followed the guy who lost over 200 pounds eating SUBWAY sandwiches. Think about it.

But when I retire, it will be because I cannot stare down one more watery vat of unseasoned grits, one more begrimed hotel toaster. If I wanted to make my own toast, I’d stay at home, not stand here in line with America’s future business leaders, a still-half-drunk wedding party, and an entire family reunion to use a toaster that shorted out in 1983.

Worst of all, though, is the abomination of the hotel biscuit. There is not enough congealing gravy in this world to cover the nastiness of a crunchy biscuit.

Fancy restaurants are no haven. At a four-star hotel, I had scrambled eggs that could have been used as packing material. At a bed-and-breakfast, I asked for bacon and eggs and got a strip of blackened bacon and a hockey-puck egg. . .and nothing else. This, in the South.

I guess we get what we settle for. I am always told I can order off the menu. The last time I did, they scooped it out of the buffet. I made my disgusted old man’s face at them, but they are young and immune.

At least, soon, I can get the disgruntled, embittered old geezer discount.


  1. Alisa

    Brilliant. My mamo- who I believe was your great aunt – Mae Whisenant Griffith knew how to serve up the Breakfast you speak of- hot biscuits- milk gravy with lots of black pepper- sizzling “streak’o lean”- scrambled eggs- fresh sliced best garden fresh tomatoes, cantaloupe and homemade butter and plum and scuppernong jelly! YUM!

    September 19, 2016 at 7:17 am
  2. Columnist Response: “The Abominable Biscuit” by Rick Bragg | Mrs. Raymer's AP Lang & Comp

    […] The Abominable Biscuit […]

    September 13, 2016 at 10:21 am
  3. Betty Windham

    Oh how you can lift the spirits of an old geezer raised in the deep south on a narrow dirt road. If we heard a car coming, we knew we were having company or they were lost! I retired from our city library and your books are so popular. I just wish Mr. Unruh would make you look more handsome in his illustrations. Can’t wait to read your new book.

    February 4, 2016 at 11:28 am
  4. Sam Wheeler

    Charlie Bundrum would NOT be impressed with THOSE kinds of icky breakfasts

    September 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm
  5. Billie Baggett

    I am from the South also and always thought you couldn’t cook eggs so they were un-eatable until I went to Europe and found out when they cook eggs they are unrecognizeable by sight, smell or taste. Better to just have breakfast roll and forget it.

    September 9, 2015 at 5:27 pm
  6. Linda Nodorft

    thank you for a wonderful start to my day with so much laughter I could hardly eat my breakfast!

    August 28, 2015 at 9:43 am
  7. Kathleen

    You and the “Grumpy Gardener” are the main reasons I read So. Living.
    You don’t “get above your raisings” & you all stay authentic. Many thanks for that. It’s hard to come by anymore.

    August 26, 2015 at 10:50 am
  8. Nancy Sansom

    I love you, Rick Bragg!

    August 25, 2015 at 9:07 pm
  9. John Eagles

    Believe it or not, the old snack bar at the Fort McClellan golf course used to put together a mouth-watering breakfast. It may not have held a candle to the spread found to the north of Jacksonville, but it was pretty good on a Saturday morning. Thanks, Rick, for reminding me of the great vittles found in that neck if the woods.

    August 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm
  10. Jackie Bottomlee

    Rick Bragg, I always love to read your work. Your sense of humor is great. And as a travel nurse born and raised in the south, I can surely relate to this piece! I enjoyed it immensely !

    August 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm
  11. Tina Girndt

    I love Rick Bragg. He can write about a can of soup and make it interesting funny and memorable!

    August 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm
  12. Beth Duncan

    Oh Rick Bragg, I adore your sense of humor. I read your books about growing up in the South; the fav is the one about your Momma. Thank you for writing something worth reading.

    August 25, 2015 at 12:18 pm
  13. Deborah Hall

    Loved this! It is so true of the hotel breakfast bars. And I am old enough for that old geezer discount.

    August 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm

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