October 15, 2012
Have you read the best-selling book “The Five Languages of Love?” In the book, author Gary Chapman outlines five ways that couples “speak” to one another through actions and reactions, and the book teaches lovers how to affirm one another. It’s brilliant, really. I think he’s right on the money.
I don’t think Mr. Chapman, as insightful as he is, hails from the South though. Here, gravy is absolutely one of the love languages. I guess that would make it No. 6. If you didn’t grow up here, you may not be following me on this one. If you did, and even if you’ve cleaned up your nutritional habits as an adult, you know exactly what I mean. Mama’s gravy made everything, and I mean everything, better. Gravy smothered everything on your plate with good old-fashioned greasy love.
I know what I’m talking about. I grew up with a mom from Virginia (southern Virginia, so it counts) and a dad from Tennessee. Gravy powerhouses, both of those states. In our household, any and every piece of meat was prepared one way — fried. Chicken, steak, roast, ham, pork chops, prime rib – all fried. You see, when you fry a piece of meat, you end up with drippings (grease, for all practical purposes) in the pan. And those drippings practically beg for some flour, salt and pepper, and milk. A little stirring, some good judgment, and voila - gravy.
When the meal was served, always with a starch such as potatoes or rice, gravy was the last addition to the plate. It was slathered over the whole mess. Somehow, while we clogged our young arteries and dared heart disease to move in and take up housekeeping, gravy was Mama’s way of saying, “It’s OK. Life is OK, and whatever’s bothering you will be made better after you eat this.”
I bought it hook, line and sinker.
The trick was, you had to eat the gravy pretty quickly, while it was hot, because as it cooled, it congealed to slicing consistency. To me, it just wasn’t the same.
It’s been many years, probably decades, since I’ve made any type of gravy (unless it’s one of those namby pamby French concoctions, and that’s not the same. I believe they call that a roux or a sauce, anyway). To me, gravy is no different than Diet Coke or cigarettes. I can’t play with fire. One pan of gravy, and it would all be over but the crying. I’d make it every meal. I’d put it on everything. I’d drink it while driving. I’d be teaching my children the same thing, and I just couldn’t live with that.
I’ll tell you something else my parents did that, to this day, astounds me. They kept a shortening can under the kitchen sink, and every time they fried a piece of meat (which was usually three times a day), they’d drain the unused residual grease into that shortening can, mixing it with the old, and just kept it for cooking. For years. That can may still be under that sink in that house in Doraville my dad sold 20 years ago, who knows?
I suppose I should be grateful to be alive, gravy or no gravy.
Did you grow up in the South? How old were you before you discovered that meats could be prepared without frying them, and that foods actually had color and texture?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (releasing October 15). She is also a regular guest on FOX News Radio station WYXC 1270 AM on Wednesdays during the Drive at 5. Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at book signings and speaking publicly at various events.