2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. (A note on sifting: When I see the word "sift" in a cookbook, I immediately drag out my Pyrex measuring cup, measure all the dry ingredients into it, and just mix them lightly with the measuring spoon. After all, how do you "sift" cornmeal or whole wheat flour? And I hate washing the sifter!) Whether you sift or merely combine the flour and leavenings, work the shortening into them with a fork and quickly stir in the buttermilk. (Don't overdo it. Just moisten the whole mass. Lumps are fine.)
Drop the batter onto a greased cookie sheet in big globs approximately an inch apart (this recipe makes about six large drop biscuits or several small ones). Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tops are a crusty golden brown.
Actually, oven temperatures are never as important as they seem. After a year of adjusting to a wood stove (and feeling somewhat like an animal trainer — who's mastering whom?) I've found that the only rule is to stick the pan in when the oven's had some time to warm up, and take it out when the food's done. The batch never seems to be wrecked when it cooks "too fast" or "too slow." Sure it's a bummer when the biscuits take several minutes to bake, but they still taste like biscuits.