Please pass the boat before the gravy is gone

Sharon M. Kennedy

Mom made the most beautiful brown gravy this side of heaven. Even relatives who would rather suffer a broken leg than give a compliment had to admit Mom’s gravy was out of this world.

Whenever she made a pot roast, we knew the best part of the meal would be the creamy mashed potatoes topped with rich, delicious gravy. As a young bride I tried to make my gravy look like hers, but I never quite achieved such perfection.

Sometimes when we oldsters recall memories from the past things get a little blurred. We might think of something that only happened in a dream but we remember it as real. Or we might claim an event as our own when it really belonged to someone else. Sometimes we might embellish a story until it sounds like a tall tale. I know you know what I mean because it’s part of the natural aging process.

However, the vision I have of Mom’s gravy is permanently ingrained in my mind. There’s no need to exaggerate its excellence. Once the roaster was taken from the oven and placed to the side of the woodstove, Mom lifted the roast out and put it on a platter. Then she started making the gravy.

I must confess this process was a mystery to me. By now you know I spent most of my childhood playing with my dolls in the room above the kitchen. As a teenager, I spent hours reading in the bedroom I shared with my sister. I was a stranger to the kitchen except when it came to mealtime and washing dishes, so it was only natural I never learned how Mom made gravy.

Then one day many years ago when I came home for a visit a wonderful thing happened. I watched as Mom reached for a bottle of something from the top shelf of her condiment cupboard. Down came a ringed bottle with an orange cap. Some ladies are as familiar with that seasoning as Mom was. She poured a little into the pan of gravy and presto, a beautiful color appeared. Before my very eyes, I saw the gravy of my youth and simultaneously discovered the product that gave it the rich brown hue I remembered.

Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce was Mom’s secret ingredient. For years that bottle was a permanent part of our kitchen. I never saw it used in the preparation of any meal because I wasn’t in the kitchen when Mom was cooking. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this but when I married at 21, I had no more idea how to cook than I knew how to fly. And that was 1968.

In today’s world when so many meals are bought at fast food places or delivered to the front door by the pizza man, I wonder if kids will ever learn how to fry an egg or cook a roast, but I see a sliver of hope on the horizon. Companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, and Sun Basket have started a grassroots movement. Every week or so, a box containing fresh ingredients magically arrives on customers’ doorsteps. Everything the cook needs to prepare a meal is in the box. Even little packets of spices are tucked among the main fare.

I suppose it’s a good idea to order from these food companies if a family wants a nutritious meal without all the fuss and bother of going to the supermarket, finding a parking place, walking up and down crowded aisles, throwing things in the shopping cart, placing them on the trolley, putting them back in the cart, wheeling it out to the car, taking bags out of the cart, replacing it in the corral, driving home in a blinding snowstorm, unloading the groceries, clearing off counter space, and finally beginning the slow process of peeling, chopping, seasoning, and cooking the food.

I’m exhausted just typing all that’s involved in grocery shopping so I guess having a food service do it for the family is a good idea. Although the protein is not cooked, it’s usually not frozen either. Rub or sprinkle the meat, chicken, or fish with the appropriate spice or herb and pop it in the oven. Make a salad and a side dish and relax while the inviting aroma of roast beef fills the kitchen and spills into the family room.

In our fast paced world, people are getting busier and more tired by the minute. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get through a day in a high stress job. Going shopping after work then returning home and starting a meal from scratch isn’t going to happen very often in most households. Nobody’s to blame. That’s just the way things are today.

It’s not like the old days. Mom didn’t work outside the home so when we got off the school bus, our supper was almost ready. We’d change our clothes and run back downstairs. At our place, a little snack of chocolate pudding or a small piece of cake was waiting for us. We always had a treat before starting barn chores or homework. When Dad got home, we gathered around the table for a family meal.

Blame this musing on my brand new bottle of Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce. If I ever make gravy, mine will look just like Mom’s.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.