Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gram's Gravy

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I am now the keeper of The Family Secret. I am the only known maker of Gram’s Gravy.

My mother’s mother died in 1998, shortly after her 98th birthday. Widowed at 49 and not quite five feet tall, she lived a few blocks away while I was growing up and was an essential part of our family life. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas until she was well into her 80’s, Gram was in charge of making the turkey gravy. There was nothing fancy about her method, no exotic additions or sophisticated techniques, but somehow she concentrated the flavors into the richest gravy imaginable. A couple of tablespoons brought plain turkey and ho-hum stuffing to life. We rationed our helpings to make sure the gravy would last as long as the leftovers because when it was gone, it was gone. Powdered or bottled gravy was no substitute.

By the time I was married, my mother had lost whatever interest she might have had in cooking large holiday meals, so the task fell to me as the eldest daughter and the only one still living in town. Fortunately, Gram was on hand to teach me the ropes. Peering over her shoulder, I learned how to shake up just the right combination of flour and water to add to the drippings to get that perfect consistency and flavor. I’ve now made that gravy dozens of times, and her method (I can’t call it a recipe) has never failed me. My daughter adores it and regularly invites friends to our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas to share our family “specialty”.

Gram’s gravy is an integral part of every holiday dinner, and I think of her every time I make it. The simple act of stirring the basic ingredients together in the hand-me-down family roasting pan is a powerful and comforting reminder of the passing of traditions from one generation to the next. I hope I’m around long enough to teach my daughter and granddaughter (if I’m lucky enough to have one) the secret of Gram’s gravy.

Do you have special holiday traditions that have been passed down in your family? I’d love to hear about them. In the spirit of giving, I’m offering a free pdf of my latest novel, A Man Like That, to one lucky commenter, so be sure to include your email address if you’d like to be entered in the contest.

Here’s a blurb about the story:

Jessamine Randall, fearless crusader and champion of the downtrodden, is not a woman to be left waiting at the altar. When her fiancé disappears hours before the wedding, she hatches a plan to track him down and bring him back where he belongs.

Morgan Bingham knows he’s no good. Never has been. Never will be. A former outlaw is no fit husband for the daughter of the town judge, despite her misguided notions. Besides, after ten long years away from home, it’s time to return to the hills and face his demons.

Ill-prepared, but armed with unshakeable certainty, Jessy follows Morgan to his family’s cabin deep in the Ozark Mountains where she’s sucked into a whirlpool of deep secrets and old hatreds. While she fights to bring light and hope into their dark lives, her greatest challenge is Morgan himself. Can she ever convince him he’s worthy of love?

Alison Hendersonhttp://www.alisonhenderson.com/


Laura Breck said...

Alison, what a wonderful tradition to pass along through the generations. In our family, it's the apricot and Russian dressing-glazed chicken wings that we have for an appetizer before Thanksgiving dinner. And it's only eight days away!

Barbara Edwards said...

I love your tradition. thanks for sharing.

Vonnie Davis said...

We keep so much of our family's oral history and tradition alive when we take the time to show children how and why we do things. Oh, and should you only get grandsons, they can cook, too, and love being told "old-timey things." My grandson can make a mean batch of brownies. :) Lovely post.

Jannine Gallant said...

I loved this! And it reminds me that it's time to start teaching my girls how to make all our traditional holiday dishes. My personal favorite is the stuffing. I don't have a recipe, either. Isn't it funny that these things are never written down!

Jody Vitek said...

What a delightful post, Alison! Very heart-warming. I love tradition, but alas, we do not have one in our family when it comes to food. I did take over hosting Thanksgiving when we moved into our house over 12 years ago.

I started the tradition of putting the Christmas tree up after Thanksgiving a long time ago. The kids know that means any presents bought will appear under the tree that evening. I also paint a building and/or accessories to add to my growing village prior to Thanksgiving. My daughter will, at the same time, make or paint her small gifts for the family members.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Alison H. said...

Hi Jody! We always put up our tree Thanksgiving weekend, too, and I have an elaborate village, but I can't claim to have painted any of the pieces myself. That sounds like a very fun tradition!

Margaret Tanner said...

Lovely post Allison.
You really can't beat the "old" recipes. What I love about them,apart from the taste,is that they rarely require expensive ingredients.



Jackie said...

What a touching post. I'm awful at making gravy. So awful in fact I buy it at the store so I'm not so stressed when I ruin it. Your gravy looks lovely.
I live in Jessamine County, KY, and I'm intrigued to see your character's name is Jessamine.
Thanks for sharing!

Alison H. said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jackie! I didn't know there was a Jessamine County, KY - it's such a lovely name. I wonder who your county's named for.