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Secrets to Making Gravy Like My Grandmother

Gravy-making is alchemy. It can stretch the sticky leavings in the bottom of the skillet into a hot, rich, delicious meal that’s better able to satisfy a hungry family. Can anything more be made from less?

My Castle family tree includes a few legendary Southern cooks and several scrappy make-dos, but we all know to stand facing the stove and try to make the best of what’s at hand. When presented with almost any meat and a fair number of garden vegetables, we can figure out a way to dredge it, fry it in a skillet, and make gravy to ladle over it. Plus biscuits.

When I think of the gravies of my birthright, I think of the women who stirred them. Several minutes devoted to slow, steady, meditative stirring is the key to gravy. Now that I’m grown and a mother myself, I appreciate that the minutes they spent stirring were rare respites. It gave those indefatigable women as much as 10 whole minutes of peace and quiet despite children and pets running back and forth through slamming screened doors, the TV turned up too loud in the den, kitchen chaos, and whiny toddlers clinging to their legs. It was a chance to be alone with their thoughts and gaze out the window—although who can venture whether they were looking forward or backward? Cooks stirring gravy can only stir gravy; no apologies necessary. I can hear my grandmother, my Mama Madge, telling me, “Now, you need to ask Daddy Fred about that, or hush and sit still for a minute. I’m seeing to the gravy and can’t turn loose.” …

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Heather is the owner of Charlie Mason Entertainment in Upstate South Carolina. Entities include Upstate Exposures Magazine, Charlie Mason Radio, and the Northwest Corner Podcast.

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