Maiden Voyage on the Gravy Train

All week I was complaining about Thanksgiving dinner, because I couldn’t see what was so special about it.  I mean, turkey’s pretty flavorless and mashed potatoes are just sort of meh.  And for me, if I am going to use all those calories on dessert, there better be some chocolate—chips, sprinkles, swirls, mounds. Don’t come at me with some vegetable-y (read pumpkin) pie and expect me to salivate and beg for your recipe.  People, pumpkin is a vegetable.  I thought this was America, where people liked to eat decadent, over-rich processed foods.  Pumpkin pie is a humble and communist dessert.

So, that was the gist of all my tweets, when I wasn’t busy railing against gratitude like Jan Brady railed against Marsha.

But, something happened on Thursday.  It was like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when the black and white images turn Technicolor (which is right before that super scary Lollipop trio sings that creepy song).  I am pretty sure the sea change in my opinion of Thanksgiving can be attributed to one thing: Gravy.

Ya’ll, my mom didn’t like gravy, so we never had it.  Sure, I saw those Swanson’s cans in the Tom Thumb, but it was just something that we didn’t eat, like Circus Peanuts (the candy—remember?) or beets.  If your mama doesn’t cook it and set it on the table, then it’s not part of the memory. (I would say that Dad could have cooked it too, which is true, but this was 1970 so easy on insisting on progressive family structure. Don’t judge. We were doing our best in suburban Dallas.)

Yesterday, I liberally ladled gravy.  Gravy changes everything.  Suddenly, my turkey was moist and had a burst of earthy, salty, fatty flavor.  And those meh potatoes, came to life as I made a little hole for my gravy to rush into. I totally forgive my mom for hating gravy and not making it, but you have to think that someone like me who grew up with a Thanksgiving menu that consisted of (1) turkey, (2) green beans (not casserole, just green ass beans), (3) Pepperridge Farm dinner rolls, (4) cheese grits, and (5) and a green salad– could be forgiven for not “getting” Thanksgiving dinner.  Oh, my mom also hated stuffing and cranberries so I never had them until I was in college.

And we never EVER had pumpkin pie for dessert, so that pie that is the cornerstone of so many others’ memories never made an appearance in mine.  I think my mom thought it was “country,” so we usually had a mud pie. You know mud pie, right?  Chocolate pie crust (store-bought), a carton of coffee ice cream dumped into the crust, then covered with Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Heath’s Bits O’ Brickle.  Topped, of course, with Cool Whip.  It was all very American and store-bought. (And it was fucking delicious, if very, very bad for your blood sugar.)

So, after communing with gravy yesterday, I get it.  I really do. I am sorry for all the bad things I said about the meal. The only downside to the new-improved Thanksgiving meal is that I believe I consumed approximately 5 times as many calories.  It was worth it, but it’s hard to pretend that those great flavors and textures came from something innocent like soy or sprouted wheat.

But, that’s why I just made an all-Cher running mix and plan to lace up and go see the country side here in Wisconsin.  Off I go, powered by gravy and a new-found love of the Thanksgiving feast.


29 thoughts on “Maiden Voyage on the Gravy Train

  1. Gravy is the Midwestern nectar of the country gods. My MIL put some weird shit in hers, but even at that I just fished out the the unrecognizable fowl parts and drowned everything else in fatty salty goodness. Stuffing and gravy are what my thanksgiving memories are made of. I’m with you on the pumpkin pie…it is a 2nd class dessert. Luckily we had Huckleberry creme brûlée and chocolate torte the night before to hold us over. PS I’m thankful for your funny blog. It often makes my day.

  2. Your mom hated gravy, pumpkin pie, cranberries and stuffing… did she hate America?

    I kid. Actually we never had gravy or stuffing and only had pumpkin pie for my dad. Usually store bought. On the other hand, we had my grandfather’s amazing wild rice dressing and various delectable dishes to make up for it. We always had a kind of nontraditional Thanksgiving. And honestly? Most gravy I’ve had is not great.

    Thankfully, we were at a friend’s yesterday and she had glorious gravy. Seriously glorious. I had to try very hard not to mainline it. It was delightful.

  3. Ooh welcome to the dark side! Gravy is amazing! But you don’t want to see what it does in the fridge the next day – it reveals it’s true fat content in a most unappetizing way. Don’t look – just reheat and slather!

  4. Christie, I can’t believe you’re from Dallas! Me too, though I don’t claim it now and my parents don’t live there any more. But I did live there from about 1972 through 1986 when I graduated from high school. And furthermore I can’t believe you escaped gravy all those years. Hard for this vegetarian girl to get excited about gravy, but I’ll try to be happy for you!

  5. When I first got married, I didn’t know how to make gravy. My Mom always made it, just never showed me how. So when guests said, “What can I do?” I always said noncholantly, “Oh, you can make the gravy.” I am proud to say that now I make gravy that my kids look forward to. But yeah, turkey without gravy would be pretty dry. And why bother with potatoes at all with a turkey if you’re not making gravy to smother them in? Some things are tradition for a reason!

  6. Ha ha, Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year, but then we always had gravy. And sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, and green bean casserole and not only pumpkin pie, but other desserts as well. No one in my family ever worried about health on Thanksgiving. Well, they didn’t worry so much about it the rest of the year, either, but that day has always been a complete free-for-all!

  7. Are you sure you’re eating pumpkin pie the right way? AKA: with more homemade whipped cream than there is pie? (Also, I don’t like store bought pumpkin pie. Actually, store bought any kind of pie.)

  8. Okay, my family has had the same Thanksgiving for 35 years. Favorite holiday of the year. Why? Wine, bread, and homemade whipped cream. Everyone else eats turkey and potatoes and salad. And whatever. I don’t care.

    Bread. Wine. Whipped cream.

    The secret of Thanksgiving, of the gratitude and the meal and the family bits and the dawning of December holiday insanity: take what you need to make you happy. Whipped cream. Bread. Wine.

  9. Uh oh, If I tell my friends I am talking to an Aggie I’ll catch all sorts of hell. 😉 Cant say I had heard of the mud pie as you described it, but I know what you mean about the memories.

    Sometimes people mention things to me and ask, “you remember that” and I shake my head because it wasn’t part of my mom’s menu so like you said, it doesn’t exist.

  10. My uncle makes the most amazing turkey gravy. You could drink it, it’s that good. I usually don’t make it though bc it’s so much easier And healthier not to. But yeah, it makes the meal.

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