I was just a young girl when I began working on my family tree and struck up a correspondence with my 89-year-old great grandmother. We were pen pals right up until she died about a year later. Wish I could say I still had her letters, but they got lost in a move. Though I never actually met her, I felt very close to her. She was quite a woman.
Born in Virginia and at 34 living in North Carolina, she and my great grandfather and their seven children headed to Oklahoma in a covered wagon. Two children died, and another was born, on the long, slow journey. When they reached their destination, my great grandfather felled trees and built a log cabin with a dirt floor. And my great grandmother, a strong pioneer woman, was in a constant whirl of working and cooking (and having more children).
Her grandchildren fondly recall her fine cooking--hot bread, fresh from the oven of her wood stove, with butter she had churned herself, vegetables from her garden, fruit from her trees, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, pork chops and, you guessed it, gravy. She was frequently heard to say, "I've made enough gravy to float a battleship down the Mississippi."
Her daughter, my grandmother, was also a great cream gravy-maker and I enjoyed her gravy often throughout my childhood. I make several different gravies, but I can never make cream gravy without thinking of these two women. I don't like to waste food (Grandma would be so proud!), so sometimes, even after eating a big dinner, if there's just a little bit of cream gravy left over, I'll have it on a piece of bread. I've always called it "gravy bread." Hmm ... wonder if anyone else out there enjoys gravy bread.
(Updated 06/11/15: Just posted Biscuits and Gravy.)
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons pan drippings or bacon grease
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth or milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
In skillet, whisk together the fat (I know, I know, "bacon grease" sounds just awful; but it tastes so good!) and flour and cook, continuously stirring, for a minute or two until bubbly. Whisk in milk and broth. Turn heat to low and continue stirring until mixture is thickened, a couple more minutes. Stir in salt and pepper. If you like thicker gravy, cook a little longer. If you like thinner gravy, add milk or broth a tablespoon at a time until it's just the way you like it.