All aboard the gravy train..

A little misdirection in that this is really about the lack of gravy. Its a long story.

I’m the kind of a scattershot sort of cook who likes to try all sorts of things, the odder the better. But I have a great weakness in that though I’m pretty good at soups and Asian food, I’ve made moles from scratch and more than a few good sauces, I don’t have a very tight experience in traditional cooking.

Every now and then I thought I should go through a good general cookbook from one end to the other and get rid of the inconsistencies in my culinary knowledge but then I think, life is much too short for that sort of nonsense. Maybe if I didn’t work for a living or had no other interests, maybe then.

So given that, this year I decided to make a traditional turkey dinner for my extended family, a setting of 10. Though I avidly contribute one or two dishes to each dinner club menu, and have prepared three course meals for three or so, I’ve never tried to pull off a one man big dinner. And did I mention that I have never roasted a turkey or made a gravy?

Yet I have always thought that cooking is not that difficult if you have half a brain; its mostly attention to details and the occasional bit of inventiveness. So I approached the dinner expecting to work hard but not to fail in any way.

To make a long story short, most everything came off as planned. The turkey was magazine perfect, and tasted good if a bit dry. And dryness in meat was something we all grew up and with some exceptions still liked so it actually was a desirable quality in the bird. But the dry turkey (or roast beef) in the past had always been accompanied by copious amounts of good gravy.

Actually the only touch and go with the turkey 1. finding the way into the bird, and 2. getting it out of the pan…..two forks and perfect balance did it. And it was marred somewhat by the carving being done by someone who strangely enough discarded the beautiful skin. (I had planned on doing the carving but was told that another should do it since I was busy and they had quite the skill at it). But there it was, out of the pan, and the pan was an inch deep in lustrous liquid.

I had watched gravy being made a few times over the years and knew that what I had was rich source material indeed. And for a few minutes, it seemed as though this would be a triumph, a great gravy to go with an otherwise well thought out meal. Somehow, and I am still not certain exactly what went wrong, it turned badly within seconds and I ended up with burning bits and a rapidly thinning fluid full of clumps. (I was determined to do it all myself but at this moment I had to say fuck more than a few times and call my sister in law over for help, all from deep inside the darkest forboding depression -she could not save it or me).

I now think that it was adding the flour directly instead of first mixing it with water before, and much too much heat. Rest assured that I will do the research and the next gravy will kill!

But the time was then and I had to serve a Christmas dinner without gravy and though everyone was really great about it, and it will be a fun anecdote for Christmases to come, I never quite recovered from this failure. I could have laughed off a bad wine, or gluey potatoes, but for me the essence of holiday dinners have always been the gravy. Its quite soul destroying to serve a meal that lacks the one thing that you think makes or breaks it, the one thing that you have yourself always judged those meals by.

Oh well, I guess that is why wine should be served with every meal -lots of wine.


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