Gravy

I was wondering what to make for lunch today, and I had a sudden craving for one of my father's favorite foods: bread and gravy. He grew up poor, born in West Virginia, and moved around the midwest as a child by his father, looking, apparently not very successfully, for work. My father sometimes described himself as a hillbilly, or 'mountain William,' though he had been away from the hills for many decades by the time I knew him. He loved what now looks like poor people's food: bread and gravy; fried cornmeal mush (perhaps that's polenta to you); scrapple. Stodgy comfort foods, which eke out small amounts of meat.

We generally don't have meat in the house -- our kitchen is no-egg vegetarian -- but I lapse on occasion. I had had a roast chicken delivered a couple of days ago. So I stripped the meat off the bones and boiled up the carcass, made a roux of flour and butter, poured in the hot stock, added salt and pepper, and made a thick gravy. I poured it over the white Wonder-type bread that my staff takes with morning coffee and afternoon tea.

While I cooked I thought about my father, and remembered our family's only trip, when I was quite small, to Fairmont, West Virginia, where he was born. We met his very elderly Aunt Veedie, who invited me to choose one of her crocheted doilies as a gift. I horrified my parents by selecting the only one that was not plain white -- the yarn was heavily splotched with purple and yellow. But Aunt Veedie was pleased, saying that she called it her Aurora Borealis doily.

Two slices of white bread smothered in chicken gravy, and it was so good.

9 comments:

Jillu Madrasi said...

What is scrapple -- is that the meat part of this dish?

Nancy said...

Scrapple is a dish in which corn meal and scraps of pork are mixed and spiced and cooked together. It's something like sausage, but with its own special taste. It comes from Pennsylvania, I believe. (Wish I had some now! ;)

Lucy said...

One thing I remember enjoying in the States was hot beef sandwich: thick wonder bread round a slice of beef and gravy pored all over it and drowning it. Same sort of thing. Boiling up chicken bones is a very satisfying and thrifty thing to do!

Beth said...

Bread and gravy used to be a real treat in our house, often eaten after a roast-something, but sometimes the day after for lunch. It makes my mouth water to think about it!

Anonymous said...

I agree... 'Poor people's food' can indeed be quite delicious. I went to school in New Orleans and remember enjoying jambalaya, gumbo, etc... 'slave' food that is a essentially a mish-mash of rice, left overs and meat from animal/fish body parts that the 'slave owners' would reject! I should say that I have been reading your blog for sometime now and enjoy doing so. Arun (181greenoaks@gmail.com)

Nancy said...

Thanks, Arun. I don't know much about Louisiana cookery -- that's interesting, that these dishes were also poor people's food. It's an interesting topic for further cogitation ;).

Jillu Madrasi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ah, Po Boys! Another fine example of New Orleans cusine and 'Poor people's food'. Nancy, a Po Boy was literally meant to be a 'Poor-Boy's' sandwich. Jillu Madrasi, I went to Tulane. Did you study in NO as well? Arun

Anonymous said...

your blog posts make me cry. food (or a dish) is evocative of so much more. thank you for sharing.