Saturday mornings were special occasions at our house when we were growing up. My friends begged to spend the night so they could be part of the Saturday morning ritual.
Mom would take out her green plastic bowl and splash in a little water, a little cocoa powder, some flour and sugar, stir it all up, put it in a pan on the stove, and then add a little milk and stir some more.
While the cocoa was heating up, the soft dough biscuits were baking in the oven. She made them from scratch — no boxes or mixes.
When the cocoa was taken off the stove and the biscuits removed from the oven, we eagerly grabbed a biscuit and tore it into bite-size pieces. In our hurry to devour the world’s best breakfast, we'd burn our fingers. Mom would laugh and tell us to wait.
We smothered the torn-up bits of biscuit with cocoa and topped it all off with a pat of butter. The butter melted into the cocoa, leaving a yellow smear on top. If there was any cocoa left on the plate, we'd grab another biscuit and mop up the remaining cocoa with it.
Afterwards my friends would go home and tell their moms about the wonderful breakfast we'd eaten and beg them to make it. They'd call my mom for the recipe, but there wasn’t one. Mom learned to make it from my Dad’s Mom, and she didn’t have a recipe either. Mom tried to explain how to make it to the other moms, but it was never quite right.
Dad shared a similar story when he was growing up. His friends all thought he was rich because Grandma made cocoa and biscuits every Saturday morning. In the Arkansas Ozarks in the thirties, this was a Christmas morning treat, or a birthday tradition, not an every-weekend occasion.
The cocoa and biscuit mornings slowly disappeared as I grew older. Sometimes they were used as bribery if I lounged in bed too long on a Saturday morning. Mom would pop her head in my room and ask if I wanted them and I'd eagerly jump up to help, or else the smell of warm cocoa lured me out.
Many a tear was shed over these breakfasts. It was our time to sit down together and share stories, heartaches, and triumphs.
Pretty soon the “made from scratch” biscuits transitioned into biscuits stirred up from a box. Then the whole treat disappeared from the Saturday morning menu and was replaced with cereal. They occasionally made an appearance when Mom didn’t feel like cooking a “real” meal. It faded away altogether when Dad couldn’t eat them any longer.
One day Mom bought a cookbook from a church having a fund raiser and the magic recipe was in it. It was called “Chocolate Gravy.” The recipe didn’t turn out quite the same, but it gave us a starting point for perfecting it. We worked on the perfect combination for several weeks. Each week we tried something different.
We didn’t use two tablespoons of flour like the recipe indicated, but instead two heaping tablespoons. The cocoa was also two tablespoons, but not quite heaping. The recipe called for a cup of sugar, but half a cup was plenty. Milk took the place of water, and it had to be watched carefully or it would get too thick. Finally, we had a decent plate of cocoa and biscuits.
I posted a picture on Facebook and my close friends immediately knew what it was. They started posting memories about staying at my house on Friday nights and being treated to cocoa and biscuits for breakfast on Saturday mornings. They still raved about it.
One morning on Facebook one of my cousins posted a picture of her family sitting around the table with her mom, their plates in front of them. They had the same ritual growing up, and she had finally conquered the recipe and made it for them. We reminisced about the Saturday morning memories and eating at little Grandma’s house in the small town of Yellville, Arkansas. We called her little Grandma because she was under five feet tall.
I started making it for my husband and me on Saturday mornings. We seldom sat down together for meals, but the Saturday morning cocoa and biscuits became something we looked forward to before the day's busyness began.
When Mom got sick and couldn’t cook any longer, I made the 600-mile round trip every weekend to help take care of her. It was my turn to make her breakfast. Once in a while she asked for cocoa and biscuits and we laughed at how I was cooking for her now. Sometimes it was even used as bribery to get her out of bed.
Now I make cocoa and biscuits in Mom’s green bowl and I can see her comforting smile in my mind’s eye.
Bio: Penny Camp is a lifetime member of Writers' Village University where she started working toward her MFA in February of 2019. She has taken many writing classes over the years, mostly in creative nonfiction. She has been published in Village Square.