Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Hazards of Gravy-Making.

The English may only have two sauces, if the old saw is to be believed - but as one of them is gravy, and the other one is custard, and both of these are infinitely variable - no higher number is needed.

I understand that some of the hopeful ‘cookstove artists’ amongst you are afraid of gravy-making. Today we are blessed with an elegant sufficiency of instant everything and anything for the kitchen, including of course sauces, including gravy, in many forms – powder, cube, jar, or resealable plastic packet. Many of these will be purchased in the ensuing weeks to enhance or disguise the Thanksgiving roasts and Christmas puddings, so in view of my promise yesterday, I thought it might be fun to look back to a time when instant gravy was a novelty. Here are the enthusiastic words of a columnist in the New York Times of May 13, 1941.

Ready-to-Cook Gravy Latest Addition to Quick Aids for Harassed Housewife.

We are in a perpetual state of amazement these days over the endless parade of culinary short-cuts constantly coming into view. If things keep up at this rate much longer, filling the water glasses will be the most taxing part of preparing a full-course feast. Latest addition to the time-saving collection is a base that is said to eliminate the hazards of gravy-making – that Armageddon in which many a hopeful cookstove artist has gone down to a disgraceful defeat. The gravy base is the inspiration of a transplanted California couple who, in the little shop adjoining their Long Island home, have confined their previous experiments to herbs and new uses for them. Now, thanks to them, we can eliminate fussing with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of flour, a dash of pepper – all these are right in the preparation. Included as well are a variety of herbs and spices that lend a full-bodied flavour to both soups and gravies. The sponsors of this newcomer declare that with very little effort you can produce at will a thin white sauce, a brown gravy, or a cream gravy. The cost of the preparation is 30 cents for a seven-ounce jar.

Gravy for Roast Meat.
Ingredients:- Gravy, salt.
Mode:- Put a common dish with a small quantity of salt in it under the meat, about a quarter of an hour before it is removed from the fire. When the dish is full take it away, baste the meat, and pour the gravy into the dish on which the joint is to be served.
Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Everyday Cookery; Isabella Beeton, 1865

Quotation for the Day.

"....grease is not gravy. How often I have wished, from the depths of a loathing stomach, that certain well-meaning housekeepers - at whose boards I have sat as guest or boarder - who fry beefsteak in lard, and send ham to table swimming in fat; upon the surface of whose soups float spheroids of oil that encase the spoon with blubber, and coat the lips and tongue of the eater with flaky scales-that these dear souls who believe in 'old-fashioned cookery,' understood this simple law of digestive gravity!"
Breakfast, Luncheon and Tea, Marion Harland, (Mary Virginia Terhune) (1875)


Fay said...

"...grease is not gravy"
This reminds me of the all too common catch cry of modern TV chefs who keep telling us "fat means flavour".
I know it can, but for those of us with dietary concerns it gets a bit frustrating.

SharleneT said...

By playing with herbs and spices, you can come up with some really great gravies...

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!