Thursday, August 6, 2009

Biscuit Making Salesman

The phone rang early that day. That usually meant problems at our abode. This day was no exception as my wife handed it to me and shrugged her shoulders … a signal that she did not know who it was, and furthermore wanted nothing to do with it.
I answered cautiously, “Hello.”
On the other end was a voice that was very familiar to me. It was a furniture dealer from deep down Cairo, Georgia. I had recently sold him some appliances. I digress. In my other life, I was, and I still am a professional sales representative. The voice on the other end had a tone that no salesman ever wants to hear ------ almost desperately he said, “I sold one of your stoves (notice the ownership he assigned concerning the stove) and the woman I sold it to is unhappy with it.” He continued with a level tone in his voice, “She said it will not cook biscuits as fast as her old stove did.”
As a professional salesman, I recognized immediately the problem. It was not that the stove would not cook biscuits or anything else as well as her old stove would. It was not her dislike of the product either. It was and still is today a phenomenon known as “Buyer’s Remorse”. Buyer’s remorse usually occurs after a person has made a purchase and at some point shortly after doing so, they start to feel they might have been hasty in making the purchase. Another thing that is not uncommon in buyer’s remorse is when the spouse of the person making the purchase finds out that they were not consulted prior to the purchase. Their actions can reflect anger, pouting, or perhaps ridicule of the purchaser’s mentality. Either way, buyer’s remorse sets in and the person making the purchase starts to come up with excuses or reasons that they don’t want to keep the product. The next step is to complain to the seller about the dissatisfaction with the product.
“What do you want to do?” I inquired of the furniture store owner.
Rather curtly he replied in a slow drawl, “Well, I shore don’t want to take that stove back.!”
Thinking as quickly as I could, I asked him if she gave him any details. He said she told him that her old stove would cook biscuits in thirty minutes, while the new one would not.
“Winifred,” I said very firmly, “I will drive down to Cairo tomorrow, and I have a plan. Call your customer and ask if you can bring the representative over to see the stove.”
In nineteen sixty-four when we were married, my new bride informed me that she did not make biscuits. One can imagine the shock to the system of this writer who was raised on hand-made, home-made biscuits of a master biscuit making mother. I am talking about gravy and biscuits, syrup sopping biscuits, cold biscuits with a hole stuck into it by a young boy’s dirty finger before filling it with syrup, and biscuits with fatback, streak-o-lean or sausage in them. Well, you get the picture. I would need biscuits to survive. I proceeded directly to my mother’s home to discuss my dilemma. She was sympathetic with my plight, therefore she started teaching me the art of making “scratch” biscuits without a recipe ---- not an easy task for a young man whose total experience in the kitchen consisted of frying eggs and making milk shakes the old fashioned way. No ice cream involved because of the expense, it consisted of ice, sugar, milk, and vanilla flavoring mixed by shaking in an empty Mason jar until it foamed. Ummmm! Good!
I made a run on the Piggly Wiggly grocery where I picked up some self-rising flour, buttermilk, and lard. I took the weapons of my choice, a sifter and a large bowl along with the old cookie sheet, blackened from years of baking wonderful biscuits.
“You’re gonna do what?” Winifred asked somewhat incredulously.
“Come on! It’ll be okay.”
“That old woman may shoot both of us, Sam.”
“We’re going to save your sale.”
“Are you sure you know how to cook biscuits?”
“I studied at the feet of the master biscuit maker—my mother.”
As we drove into the driveway of the small frame house, I could tell that Winifred was extremely nervous. His nervousness was almost catching as my mind conjured up this little Martha White Pillsbury person who was as much an expert as my mother, waiting to lay me away. My plan was to use the element of surprise that has been successfully used on battlefields by warriors around the world since the beginning of time. We would ask her if we could look at the stove without telling her what I had in the large bag. Looking very professional, I touched the stove in strategic spots, turning knobs on first then off. Finally, when she would not leave us alone, I told her we were going to have to check it out by baking some biscuits in it.
“Hummmph!” She snorted as I began my attack in this strange kitchen.
“Winifred, will you start keeping time on your watch when I turn the oven on pre-heat?”
Nervously, he grunted in the affirmative as I placed my large bowl on her table. I sifted enough flour to cook approximately twenty to twenty-five biscuits, adding confidently the lard before kneading it into the mixture. Next I poured the buttermilk in mixing the soon-to-be biscuits with the confidence of someone with ten years of successful biscuit making experience. Pulling off a small fist sized portion of dough, I began to roll then into perfect biscuit size before placing them onto the old sheet that had made hundreds, maybe thousands of biscuits. When I finished hand rolling all the mixture under the watchful eye of the occupant of the house, I put the uncooked biscuits into the now pre-heated oven. Now we would wait. The timepiece was ticking. Beads of perspiration formed on the forehead of the store owner. The lady suffering from buyer’s remorse was struggling to keep her composure. She was definitely feeling the effects of the invasion onto her turf.
Keeping a watchful eye on the oven, I beheld perfectly golden biscuits, which I removed from the oven and placed on the counter. I am certain the spirit of my departed mother was smiling at the result. “Time!” I exclaimed to my dealer.
“Twenty-nine minutes,” Winifred announced with a big smile.
I broke out the stick of butter, sliced a patty, and placed it into the steaming biscuit. “Ma’am, would you like to try one of these biscuits?”
“Hummmph!” She retorted once more this time spinning on her heel and vacating the kitchen for the first time. She knew the agony of defeat as my dealer informed her that he could not take the stove back.
I smiled at Winifred as we left. Feeling very smug, I said “Call me if you have any problems.”
Somehow, I felt as though he must be thinking, “That is one biscuit making salesman.”


gigi said...

You are one smart cookie, or biscuit or salesman! To funny :)

Anonymous said...

I have ett some of those delicious, wonderful, golden brown biscuits made by the master and the student biscuit maker/salesman and they are A number one.
Wish I had one this morning.
da crow