It’s Not All Gravy

Hey friends.

I’m really sorry it’s been so long between posts. Things got busy again as they do, and then a friend and fellow performer, Megan Margolies aka Patsy Grind , died in an accident and to be honest with you, I hit a rough patch after she passed from this life to the next. This post is dedicated to her. I will miss you greatly biddy girl and take your light with me every time my feet hit the stage.

Here we go:

I think people assume my mom taught me to cook. She taught me the basics; how to boil water, scramble eggs, make cinnamon toast, cut up a chicken for frying, and how to make a pot of beans, but that’s really about it. Momma was not a patient woman, she would start out trying to show me how to do something and then when it wasn’t progressing as she thought it should she would just sort of push me out of the way and say “just let ME do it, you’re making a mess”. I think people also think because she had seven of us she had the patience of Job but I am here to tell you, it was all a facade. She had no patience, none whatsoever. I understand why she didn’t but at the same time I wanted her to teach me things. I wanted to learn how to make perfect pies, beautifully decorated cakes and sew pretty things out of a bunch of nothing. In her defense she did try but she would just get impatient because it was taking me longer than she thought it should, or one of the little kids would start screaming, or some of them would start screaming and fighting or one of them would be bleeding and that was it. It just never worked out. It is the reason that if I can’t do something flawlessly the first time I try to do it, I won’t ever try it again. It’s why I can’t play the flute, why I won’t even try to decorate a cake, and why I refuse to cut fabric with scissors.

When Roger and I first got married, I could only cook a few things. We ate a lot of spaghetti, beans, and fried chicken. It was really all I knew how to make that would turn out. I tried other things, like stir fry, and after several bad batches, Roger told me “if you want Chinese, I’ll take you out. Please stop trying to make it at home.” He also was not a fan of my goulash. When I was a kid goulash was macaroni noodles, browned hamburger meat, and ketchup and we ate it with store bought white bread with margarine schmeared on it and I loved it. Roger did not. It’s been years since I made it because the last time I did he said, “Please don’t ever make this again,” and proceeded to tell me about Bob Johnson’s wife who made goulash with all kinds of shit in it and how he loved it and I told him that was fine, he could just go live with Bob Johnson and his wife if she was such a fucking good cook.

I mean I knew what you were supposed to do because I’d seen Momma do things a million times but it just never turned out because I didn’t have any hands on experience. That, and  I was afraid of something not turning out and having to throw it out and wasting food. There was a time in my past life that I was very poor and at times had to steal milk for my kids from the food trays of the patients in the nursing home where I worked so they had milk. I’m not proud of that but I’m not ashamed either, I did what I had to do, you know. It’s the past and I don’t ever have to live it again. And from that experience, for the longest time I was terrified we’d run out of food and so I couldn’t mess anything up.

Then we got a satellite dish. Roger said it was the best thing he ever did. I learned to cook by watching the Food Network. I have a million cook books and magazines but I am a visual learner, I need to see you do it and then I can do it. I watched Emeril and Rachael Ray faithfully. I learned that putting a little salt in the mashed potatoes wasn’t going to kill anyone, and that real butter was so much better in everything than margarine. I sort of got over my fears of completely running out of food.

One of the things I had always screwed up was gravy. When I say gravy, I mean white gravy, as in cream gravy. When I was a teenager at home and tried to make it, it would turn out so bad, our dog AJ, wouldn’t even eat it and he ate everything. I even gave my sister Tyke directions over the phone the first time she ever tried to do it and it turned out just right for fuck’s sake! But I’ll be damned if I could ever get it right, so I just gave up and used package mix for the longest time but I never liked it, it always tasted fake and gross. One day, I just decided to the hell with this, I know what to do, I  just have to practice. It took a long time and we ate some pretty shitty gravy until I got it down but when I did, I was pissed with myself for ever not making myself make gravy before.

Here’s what I do:

This is the left over grease from frying chicken. You want to use this because you want all of those yummy chunkie things in the pan, that’s what is going to make your gravy taste good.

Take some of the grease and put it in a fresh skillet. You can just pour the grease out of the other skillet and use that but I have spilling issues so I just use a different skillet. Make sure you get some of the chunkies out of the pan you did your frying in.

You want about this much for a pan this size.

Start adding your flour. Use clean flour, not the flour you ran your meat through to fry it.

Add enough flour to soak up the grease but don’t get too much. You stir stir stir and you want it to look like this.

Then you add your milk. I use 2% because that’s what we use at home but whole or raw (meaning fresh from the cow) milk tastes much better. You have to stir your roux (the flour and grease mixture) like you’re a government mule being beat as you add the milk. It takes two hands and I was home alone so there’s no photo. And after you add the milk stir stir stir.

You’ll want to end up with about this much for a pan this size.

One of the hallmarks of good gravy is plenty of black pepper. I put this much but you can add more or less. I remember one time when we were kids we were watching some cooking show on channel 13 and they were showing this lady who’d won awards from the State Fair for her cooking and she was making gravy and she said to use white pepper because you didn’t want “any little black specs in your gravy.” Well, needless to say, our Bekah was downright appalled and went around mimicking that lady for weeks.

You want to make sure you add salt too. There’s nothing worse than gravy with no salt, it tastes like flour. bleck! I use about two of these spoons of salt. More or less depending on your tastes.

And then you stir until you think your effin arm is going fall off.

It will start to feel thick on the whisk and start to boil. If it starts getting too thick too fast, turn the heat down really low and add some more milk.

I can tell by the look and feel of the gravy when it’s done but you can also do the “back of the spoon test”. Run a spoon through it and then turn the spoon over and run your finger through the gravy on the back of the spoon. If it looks like this you’re done!

So there you go. Easy peasy, as Jamie Oliver likes to say.

I hope you try it out and don’t let it scare you. Let me know if you do and what you do to make it your own.

Oh, and don’t forget to hug the people you love and say that you love them, you never know when they’ll be taken from you.




6 comments on “It’s Not All Gravy

  1. I’m so sorry about your friend. This is an excellent post though.

  2. Love it! Great gravy, momma! And I totally feel you on the not so patient Mother and fear of starving.

  3. Oh MY GOD I am DYING laughing! Do you know that EVERY time I make cream gravy and toss in a handful of black pepper I think of that woman??? I love it!

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