Gravy: International Emulsified Sauce of Mystery

Pan drippings did not originate in France. Just sayin. Photo from tastesbetterfromscratch.

 Leg of mutton, but no other meat is used. Prepare water; add fat; dodder [wild licorice] as desired; salt to taste; cypress [juniper berries]; onion; samidu [semolina]; cumin; coriander; leek and garlic, mashed with kisimmu [sour cream or yogurt]. It is ready to serve.

From “Three Babylonian Recipes You Can Make Today”

This is a recipe that starts with a gravy. Boil animal fat, water, and spices together, using semolina and yogurt as thickening agents. Combine with meat. It’s a recipe that is 3,600 years old, from ancient Babylon. Hammurabi and friends knew how to eat.

According to several internet cooking references, gravy was created in France because the medieval French wrote many cookbooks that used the technique. Gravé is a word from Middle English, which for some reason is credited to the French. Of course, one of the better techniques for making gravy involves using a roux–flour browned in meat drippings–and since roux is a French word (though it’s based on the Latin russet or red/brown), then obviously the French invented gravy! Certainly, that’s what the French would tell you.

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The Potato that Circumnavigated the Globe

An oldie but a goodie — from November 2019…

A potato, a yam, and a sweet potato were sitting in a bar. The sweet potato said, I think I’ve had a few too many… better call me a Tuber….

Fozzie Bear: What is the potato’s least favorite day of the week? Fry-Day! I’ll be here all week. Photo from Pinterest.

Did you know that yams and sweet potatoes are not the same–oh you did? Did you know that potatoes and sweet potatoes are not the same species–oh you did? Ok, did you know that sweet potatoes sailed to Polynesia? Gotcha there.

Also, potatoes once made Queen Elizabeth ill. Yams, which are more clever, once ruled the world. And, since those bastard potato plants pretty much destroyed an entire country and created a big chunk of a new one, that makes the lowly potato pretty down powerful. Yep, I started poking around to find out why potatoes and sweet potatoes aren’t related and I found all sorts of interesting stuff. We’re goin’ in!

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The Mother of Thanksgiving

Sarah Josepha Hale, engraving from Library of Congress

Mary had a turkey browned
From three hours in the oven
Her guests were drooling all the while
For gravy and the stuffin’

Hale’s famous poem, variation by kajmeister

Perhaps Americans would still have invented Thanksgiving without Sarah Josepha Hale. After all, proclamations of Thanksgiving had been declared by the Continental Congresses by Samuel Adams and John Hanson and the like:

It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict, in which they have been so long engaged and so on and so forth etcetera etcetera etcetera…

November 1782, text for the Thanksgiving or National Prayer Day observation (Wikipedia)

That seems a rather dry plateful of harvest to start with, taking some 250 words until it even gets to the Thanksgiving part of the equation. Why, there’s hardly any gravy at all, although there does seem to be quite a bit of lard in it, so maybe the pies were flaky.

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