Thursday, March 18, 2010

Goodness Gracious Gravy

My mom makes delicious gravy, especially round steak gravy which she always serves over rice and peas. She has said she cannot make a decent brownie to save her life, neither can I (even when I use a box mix) so I believe I inherited that gene from her. I did not, however, inherit the gene for her innate ability to make delicious gravy which lead to a disastrous result in my younger days.

This "genetic defect" was made obvious one dinner time when I was in high school (circa mid/late 1970's).

Mom was not home for dinner that evening (a very rare occurrence); it was Thursday, my night to set the table and make dinner (or help Mom make dinner when she was there).

On the menu...round steak, rice, peas and gravy.

How hard could it be to make gravy? I had seen my mom make it, it did not look too difficult...easy, peasy (no pun intended).

I had finished frying the last piece of round steak in Mom's old cast iron pan, put it on a plate and set the plate in the oven to keep the steaks warm as I prepared the gravy.

I pulled the gallon of cold, creamy milk out of the fridge, measured out a couple of cups worth and poured that milk into the cast iron pan. I knew, from watching my mom, when making gravy you needed to stir the gravy constantly as it cooked until it thickened.

I began stirring the milk, occasionally eyeing the clock (dinner time at our house was 5:00 and not a minute later), thinking this gravy better start thickening or dinner would be late.

I continued to stir as the minutes ticked away....

Why wasn't the gravy thickening? I had dinner to serve to a hungry dad and siblings!

This was ridiculous, Mom's gravy never took this long to thicken. What was wrong? Stupid gravy!

Still stirring away, I sense someone looking over my shoulder. Turning (and still stirring) I see my dad's face, then I hear him say, "Did you put any flour in it before you added the milk?"

Flour? What? I must have missed that step when watching my mom make her gravy on some of those past Thursdays.

"Uhm, no."

" Guess the gravy's off."

This significant, emotional event ensured I learned that making a roux is a step that is never optional when making gravy.

I can now make a decent gravy but have pretty much given up on ever being able to make a palatable brownie to save my life.


  1. Jill, I am with you on the gravy boat! Only just in the last few years have I made the connection of roux (which I never had a problem making) with a decent gravy. Now my gravy is passable, good if I am lucky, but never great. I can make brownies, but I have given up on Jello. Don't know why, but I just can NOT make jello!

    I love your nostalgic posts. We had a 5:00 dinner time at our house, too!

  2. A good brownie recipe is in Joy of Cooking..."simple brown gravy". I've made it many times, and have received rave reviews. Good Jello can only be made when you are, um, 75. JMK

  3. Jill, I remember that night clearly. It might be the same night Andrew put liquid palmolive soap in the dishwasher. Michael

  4. I am sorry that when I made gravey I didn't write it down for all to follow, but am happy to know that you have accomplished this skill, I can't make brownies or fudge unless you want to eat it with a spoon...Mom

  5. This brings up the memory when you and I made a birthday cake for Lori and fell quite short of a masterpiece, who knew one had to add baking powder for a cake to rise. I can make a mean skillet of gravy and brownies. Kit

  6. I can do gravy, but brownies is far from me! Love the stories, since I was off to the Navy at that time. CND

  7. Jill, I make a fantastic gravey. I never measure a thing. Andrew