Country Cooking: Biscuits, Cornbread and Homemade Gravy

It's All Trew: Timeless farm fare of scratch-made biscuits, homemade gravy and cornbread have enduring appeal.


| May 2008



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Delbert Trew

Amazingly, in all the volumes written about food and nutrition today, gravy is rarely mentioned. The recommended daily diet needed for good health doesn't include gravy, and the ladies' magazines packed with beautiful photos of well-prepared food rarely feature gravy. Maybe it's because homemade gravy has long been associated with hard times.

Many old-timers still refer to the Great Depression as "fat-back and water gravy times." Many a skinny chicken, scrawny hog, jack rabbit or piece of stringy beef was made palatable with a coating of thick homemade gravy. Some old-timers even thought gravy improved digestion.

Grandma Trew always made thick, dark gravy, as Grandpa didn't think pale gravy had any strength. She made it three times a day for more than 50 years. Uncle Nep Trew ate gravy over the top of everything on his plate. His favorite dessert was chocolate cake with homemade gravy on top. Aunt Mettie allowed as how she had made enough gravy in her marriage to float the battleship USS Texas.

A former ranch partner of my father's made gravy thinned with hot coffee. He also made red-eye gravy whenever we had cured ham. We didn't add salt, as the ham was salty enough already. It was thin but packed a flavorful wallop.

A young newlywed once asked my mother if she would teach his city-bred wife how to make good gravy. Mother wrote out the recipe and directions, and then walked the young bride through a couple of skillets of gravy making. As they left, the young man gave Mother a hug and whispered, "Thanks a million. I can eat anything no matter how bad it tastes if I can get enough gravy on it." Knowing how to make good gravy might have saved that marriage!

Biscuits filled the bill

What goes better with gravy than biscuits? My earliest memories of biscuits include climbing up a Hoosier cabinet, opening the top door, reaching into a syrup bucket and grasping a cold biscuit left over from breakfast. My first delicate maneuver was learning how to hollow out the center of a made-from-scratch biscuit for jelly or sugar without puncturing a hole that would allow a leak.