THE BLOG
06/17/2014 10:08 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2014

Just Desserts: What Eric Cantor Forgot

"Remember where you come from," my Tennessee friend would tell her teenage kids as they left the house. Of course, she has this great drawl that made it all sound a lot more threatening. And it was a reminder of a lot more than the location of their Carthage farm.

I thought of Alberta as I was finishing some sugar cookies -- and watching the cable news networks erupt over Eric Cantor's loss. The House Majority Leader was one of those guys who always found the word "powerful" somewhere really close to his name. Not any more. Cantor got his butt kicked by a local college professor whose name I forget.

"He needed Alberta," is what I thought, shocked as anyone listening to the news that night. (Shocked, not sad or disappointed. I'm a Democrat.) But it made me think of other suddenly sunk 'powerful' politicians. "Former" is what they get close to their names now.

It doesn't just happen to Republicans. Think about these Democrats: Senators Jim Sasser of Tennessee and Tom Daschle of South Dakota. House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington state. There are even some who argued that if Al Gore had won his home state of Tennessee in 2000, he'd have been President, never mind Florida.

Peacock one day, feather duster the next.

And then there's Democrat Martha Coakley's famous 2010 defeat in the Massachusetts special election for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Voters complained "she basically took the election for granted," according to the Boston Globe. Remember? She balked about shaking hands. It's haunting her now as she runs for Governor, desperate to prove she learned her lesson.

That's what happens when you forget where you come from.

On the morning of primary day, "Cantor was huddled with lobbyists at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill," Politico reported.

On the morning of any election day, candidates (incumbents too!) are supposed to be up ugly-early - about the time I'm putting in breakfast biscuits. It's still dark outside. You're supposed to spend the day - every minute of the day until the polls close - in a spirited, Red Bull-kind of sprint for votes. Even in a primary. Even when your pollster tells you that you're up 34 points. (No kidding , that's what Cantor's pollster told him as voters cast their ballots for the other guy.)

But Cantor was on Capitol Hill, a long way from his Congressional District around Richmond - in miles and even further away in thinking. Cantor was focused on where he was going, not where he came from, preoccupied "with reaching the pinnacle of House leadership," as Politico reported.

Which, no doubt, is why Cantor had plenty of cash to trash his opponent in attack ads that instead increased the guy's name recognition. Voters found Cantor's attacks unbelievable. That may be because while Cantor was hobnobbing with lobbyists, his opponent was in the District, giving voters an up-close-and-personal view that money can't buy.

There's lots of talk about what went wrong. The signals Cantor missed, like when his guy got booed and beat for a key chairmanship in the district. And when they moved his convention to a location that could handle a bigger crowd. Did Cantor really think all those new people coming to the party were coming for him? Maybe. And that's the conceit of arrogant incumbency.

What happened to Eric Cantor is what happens when you forget the people who got you where you are. It is what happens when you forget where you come from.

My friend Alberta's never forgotten and neither have her kids, who moved out and away remembering who they are and where they came from. She still lives close to where she was raised, and where she and her husband raised their kids.

Alberta also makes the best cooked apples anywhere (lots of butter) and flaky biscuits much better than anything I ever managed. Of course, it is totally unreasonable to expect a Long Island girl to ever match the biscuit-making skills of a Tennessean, with a recipe handed down from her mom and perfected over generations of trial and error. But here goes:

Buttermilk Biscuits

4 ½ oz. Cake Flour
4 ½ oz. AP Flour
2 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
¼ cup White Shortening
6 oz. Buttermilk

1. Sift flour and dry ingredients into mixer bowl.
2. Add Crisco and cut with paddle.
3. Stir in milk until dough comes together
4. Use hands to crumble Crisco, spread milk.
5. DON'T over mix
6. Empty the dough out of the mixer bowl onto your worktable to make sure all ingredients are combined.
7. On lightly floured surface, gently roll dough: small biscuits about ½" thick, larger biscuits about ¾ " thick. Roll as little as possible. You can use your hands to gently pull the dough to the thickness you want.
8. Cut with biscuit cutter, straight up and straight down. Want all the biscuits out of your FIRST roll. You can bring the scraps back in, and reroll, but these biscuits are never as nice as the first.
9. Brush milk on top of biscuits before baking; also could sprinkle sugar or seeds (sesame, poppy)
10. Bake 450 degrees; 12 minutes for large biscuits; 8 - 10 minutes for smaller biscuits. These bake fast and hot. They don't freeze well, so just bake what you need.