Here's a trick with turbulence on an airplane: you pretend those jostles and bumps mid-air are not the result of wind gusts at an altitude of 36,000 feet (and that one big bump will send you and the other passengers catapulting to earth in a fiery blaze; don't think about that)—you pretend you're on bus. That's right. You're on a bus, and those bumps are potholes. You're not on an airplane. The luggage above your head is being throttled around because of bumpy roads. What's with this town? Why don't they pave their potholes?
I swear, it works. Thinking of poorly-paved roads is the opiate to my high anxiety when traveling. Did they fill up on gas before takeoff? Did I pack deodorant? What's the snack situation at LAX? You do what you can when you fly several times a year and don't take sedatives (because who wants to be zonked-out for the fun "here's how you inflate the life jacket!" gag?). And when I fly home, to Alabama, it's typically an all-day affair filled with an abundance of sky-potholes.
But I did it for the biscuits.
You see, dear reader, there's a sordid butter-and-fried-chicken-filled-bucked of reasons I used to be a fat kid/fat adult, and I won't blame any one thing. But I will admit that a contributing factor was love in the form of southern cooking that only grandma can deliver—and I mean grandma Clink Clink and her unicorn-like ability to perform culinary magic.
Let me tell you about grandma Clink Clink.
She started cooking entire meals for her family when she was a kid—we're talking too-short-to-reach-the-counter-age here—and she worked in cotton fields as a teenager, saving her money to buy herself a red coat (so she could "feel like Little Red Riding Hood"). She met my grandpa when he was working in a grocery store, and they "dated" through letters until sneaking away to get married. They started a family and now, even in her 80s, she always has a plate of something sitting in the oven, ready to share.
We're talking biscuits, cornbread served up in a mug of buttermilk (trust me), homemade meatballs and spaghetti, BBQ chicken, cabbage stewed in what I will only describe as "cornbeef in a can that can only be opened with a 'key'," greens soaked in butter, spicy sausage and fried eggs—and don't even get me started on desserts. Pound cake with lemon frosting, something called a Mustang Chocolate Cake, tea cookies... let's just say, my grandma was doing culinary mic-drops before Paula Dean opened her first tub of butter.
And she has a killer garden.
I recently flew home with the general purpose of marinating in humidity for a few days, eating a bunch of cheap BBQ and fried chicken, trying all the new coffee shops in town, and spending some quality time with my grandparents. Really, I just wanted to hear my grandpa's stories about WWII, hear some cicadas in the woods, and con Clink Clink into teaching me how to make biscuits.
I accomplished all of these things, though no con-artistry was necessary. I made my first batch of biscuits at the tender age of 30, but it still might take me a few years to make them quite the same way Clink Clink can (a pinch of this, a pinch of that..."nothin' to it, shug', you don't need to measure," she says). I'm not sure about California grandmas, but southern grandmas just want to teach you how to not suck at cooking. They also think you should be married by now, but that's another story.
The point is—never take your family traditions for granted. Ask your grandpa to tell you about the war or how he met your grandma and "stole her away." Get your grandma to teach you how to make biscuits or tell you about those weird-ass flowers growing on the side of the house. Because one day you'll be curious about all those things, and by then you might live across the country, and a roundtrip plane ticket home will cost approximately $235,549.
Plus, you get to be the friend in California that knows how to make southern buttermilk biscuits from scratch, when no one else seems to be able to nail it, and you can institute biscuit party nights. BYO-Jam.