Editor’s Note: Many creative RHM minds turned a live and silent auction into a fun and exciting experience at the Patron Party on Friday, April 26, the evening before the Daffodil Stroll, the museum’s popular garden tour. No action item was more alluring on the auction list than an evening of biscuit making at the Buckeye Lake home of Dr. Thomas Wortham and the Rev. John Kauffman and sometime this summer, the flour will fly in their kitchen. The entire event - Patron Party, auctions, sponsorships, and garden tour - raised more than $18,000 for the museum, making this the highest net income event in the history of the museum. To take an inside look at one part of this amazing event, we asked Tom, a board member, to pen his thoughts about creating this one amazing auction item.
I love the excitement of auctions. They provide a relatively safe way to exercise that human demand for competitive behavior that is the underbelly of civilized society. Therefore, when I saw that the Robbins Hunter Museum was going to hold an auction in connection with its recent Garden-Day celebrations, I mentioned to my husband John that we should contribute something. “Not our home,” he quickly replied, reminding me of the request from a local charity a year or two ago that we should vacate Heronroost, our house at Buckeye Lake, for a few days so that someone else could enjoy its views and cool breezes.
Still we did want to participate in this new venture of the museum. But how? John is a Master Gardener, and we are both great admirers of the gardens that Laura Burchfield is helping to create on the museum grounds. “We’ll figure out something,” he promised, “something that won’t require us to be homeless.”
A few days later we were having dinner with our friends Lucy Porter and Ann Lowder and the challenge of the auction came up in conversation. Silence descended. Ann, always the master in these situations, was the first to break the silence: “Why don’t you share Regina Charboneau’s method for making flaky butter biscuits, and then allow your guests to practice their new skills at a party at Heronroost.”
Even more than auctions, I like Regina Charboneau, whom the New York Times has called the “biscuit-queen of Natchez.” She is an amazingly talented woman with whom John and I became friends during my host duties on several UCLA-sponsored alumni trips on the “American Queen,” the stately luxury paddle boat on the Mississippi. At the time, Regina was the vessel’s Executive Chef, and one of the shore excursions was always a visit to “Twin Oaks,” her Antebellum house in Natchez, where Regina would entertain “Southern Style,” the star of which for me was a heaping plate of her deliciously wicked ham biscuits.
I love good biscuits, and it came as no surprise to our friends that John and I both quickly fell in love with Regina. We have been guests in her house on several occasions, and so it was just a matter of time before the day came when she called John into her kitchen with these magic words, “Let’s make biscuits.” I doubt if Virginia was any happier when she was told that there was indeed a Santa Claus.
Now every good son or daughter of the South has a recipe for biscuits (in my case make that grandson). My juvenile culinary creations even won a prize at the Kansas State Fair in 1959, a recipe that I later demonstrated on a local television station (yes, those were simpler times). John, on the other hand, hasn’t a drop of Southern blood in his veins; he’s just a good cook.
So the matter was settled: we’d teach the lucky bidders how to make Regina’s biscuits. It was our sacred duty. After all, hadn’t I told our neighbors in California when we announced our plans to retire in Ohio where we’d do “missionary work” among the natives?
We’ll begin the afternoon with mint juleps fortified by trays of Regina’s cheese coins and ham biscuits. Then proceed to the Kitchen Aide mixers lined up at attention in our kitchen ready for battle, the spoils of which will be boxes of biscuits for each of our guests to take home. After these Herculean labors, we’ll retreat to our deck for a victory dinner. Of course, the ever reliable Ohio weather will be perfect that day, but the next morning I shall probably wonder, “Where did all this flour on the counters and floors of the kitchen come from?”
On second thought, perhaps we had better wait until the biscuits are done and the flour returned to it canister before we serve the libations.