As a huge fan of both cheese and carbs, I find it truly shocking that I only attempted my own drop biscuits in the last month or so. 5 minutes of effort, no kneading or weirdo chemistry to screw up, and you’re left with a dozen pillows of cheesy, savoury, carby heaven- breakfast, lunch and snacks for the entire week.
(Or eating three as a pre-dinner snack right as they come out of the oven… not that I did that.)
The first time I ever had a drop biscuit, it was one of the best things I had ever tasted. Whether this unbridled enjoyment was due to circumstances alone, or because a shoulder season chef for an Australian SWAT team was a hidden biscuit genius, we’ll never know.
And so we begin, Tuesday’s story time…
When I was 20, I found myself in Australia with a backpack and no cell phone.
(This was before the days of smart phones and, while the rest of the world had jumped on the swap-out-your-SIM-card travel phone bandwagon, North America was- and continues to be- way behind the times.)
One week prior, I had just finished the last exam of my 3rd year at university. Fueled by adrenaline and post-exam beers, my boyfriend at the time drunkenly suggested we go to Australia for a year. Young, inspired, a little drunk and 20 years old, with little to no sense of responsibility to anyone or anything, we went home and bought tickets right away. Oh, young Finn, you so crazy.
One short week and 25 odd hours in transit later, I was spat out in Kings Cross, Sydney’s red-light neighbourhood famed for backpackers hovels, strip clubs and organized crime (yay!). Bleary eyed but excited, that first day we hit the Botanical Gardens, the Aquarium, Circular Quay, the Opera House, the Bridge… we went everywhere.
By 8pm on our first day, we had purchased a van from another backpacking couple from Paris.
Looking back, this whole operation seems ludicrous and manic, but I guess that’s 20 for you. We’ve come a long way, baby…
The very next day (!) we took our newly-purchased van- not even a camper van, but a converted work van- and, teaching ourselves how to drive standard on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, in downtown Sydney, we departed for places unknown. First stop- the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains are spectacular… and cold. Oh right, did I mention it was June in Australia? They were entering Winter and, stupid kids that we were, we had packed for sunshine. Up in the mountains, we froze. I spent the first night in the van struggling to sleep and intermittently pouring boiling water into my Nalgene water bottle to keep warm.
By day 3, we were pretty sleep deprived, even for youngsters. We formulated a new plan: drive North. Drive North until the weather warms. Drive towards the sunshine, towards the equator.
Of course, as with most roads down from mountains, the roads departing Katoomba and the Blue Mountains were winding. There was no freeway out of here.
A couple hours into our descent, while passing over a bumpy wooden bridge, half of the back bumper of the van fell off.
We drove and drove as far as we could, and the sun began to set. We were in the middle of nowhere. It was dark, it was cold, and- as mentioned- we had no handy iPhones at this time to GPS or search the nearest motel or campsite or garage.
So… drive. Drive until we find something. Somewhere to pull over, at least. The roads were very narrow and flanked with forest, we couldn’t even stop the van- just keep going, and hope the bumper holds.
The one person we stumbled across to ask for assistance couldn’t help, but only muttered ‘bah bah bah bah.’ It took us 5 minutes to realize it was because he had no tongue. I’m not even kidding.
Things were getting bleak fast. Stupid kid, why didn’t you think this through? Trial by fire, ha! What a disaster.
I am not a particularly religious person- technically I was baptized as a Christian, but have attended everything from Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu temple services to Beltane moon celebrations- but at this point I asked… someone… anyone…. anything… quietly, to please, um, please, if anything is listening, can you just lend me a little hand? Not much, just somewhere safe.
All I want is somewhere safe to rest for the night; a quiet prayer to whatever Gods were listening.
And then- a sign.
A sign in the darkness that read “Family Campground.”
We were saaaaaaved! We followed the signs down a winding road to a large single-level building, illuminated from the inside. We ran up and knocked on the door and entered a large industrial kitchen being cleaned by two tired-looking Aussies.
After inquiring about a camp site for the night and being greeted with some very confused faces, we discovered we had wandered into a Christian Youth Camp- a summer camp. Given that it was the winter, the camp had closed down for the season and was only by chance open now since they were hosting a private security SWAT team, who were doing training exercises in the forest around us.
A safe place to stop for the night. HA. HA.
We explained our situation to the camp’s owners. Thankfully, they agreed to let us park for there for the night- free of charge at that! We were elated and headed outside to heat up a can of soup on our camp stove, a late dinner, and toast to our good fortune.
A couple minutes later, one of the camp owners came out and offered us some leftover dinner that the SWAT team hadn’t finished- roast chicken and corn. Such a small act of kindness for them, sharing food with us that would have been discarded, but it meant so much to us in that moment.
We eagerly devoured the chicken and, a couple minutes later, the owner came out again- fresh drop biscuits.
“They take no time to whip together and they’re a right treat fresh.” I could have wept with how good they were. I could have wept with how lucky we were.
A few more minutes passed and out came a plate of warm apple pie with a scoop of ice cream.
“It’s so cold outside tonight- we don’t have any bunks available but we do have some lodging in an old converted train car. You could stay in those beds and take a hot shower in our ladies dormitories.” I almost definitely wept in that shower.
The next day, we helped them feed the cows and did a tour of the property.
They even fixed our bumper.
So… this was a long story about the follies of youth and the kindness of strangers and the simple beauty of a thrown together drop biscuit. It’s enough to restore some faith in humanity, amidst all the rubbish.
I sent postcards to those camp owners with updates during my drive of the circumference of the Australian continent (and Tasmania!). I don’t know where they are now, but I have never forgotten their kindness, and I always go out of my way to help tourists in my own home town if I can.
And if there is some divine someone or something out there, thank you, you sure do have a good sense of humour.
|Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits|| |
- 2 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3 Tbsp water
- ⅔ cup goat cheese, crumbled
- ⅔ cup sun-dried tomatoes coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup chives, chopped
- 3 Tbsp butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add yogurt, water, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and half of the chives. Mix until just incorporated- try not to over-mix.
- Drop batter in ~1/4 cup portions on to the cookie sheet, roughly 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Melt butter in a small bowl. Remove biscuits from the oven and brush butter over top. Sprinkle with the remaining chives.