Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Slice of Life: Making Gravy 19 of 31


It's day 19 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  We're more than half way through 31 days of writing.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  

Before my husband and I were married I spent a lot of time at his parents' house.  His mom had a way of making everyone feel welcome in their home.   When she cooked, there might be four people in the house but, she cooked for an army.  It never mattered if someone stopped by because she always had more than enough food on the stove.  She was always ready to lend an ear, a hand, or whatever someone might need.

After my husband and I got married, she would always introduce me to people as her daughter.  Somehow this just always made me feel like I was such a part of this family.   In the first years we were married, we spent a lot of time at my in-laws.  They lived close so it was easy to stop by or join them for dinner.  We joined them for dinner A LOT.  Betty, my mother-in-law, was an amazing cook.  It wasn't uncommon for me to spend time in the kitchen as she prepared meals.

It was in her kitchen that I learned the secrets of making gravy.  She taught me to put the flour in a cup and add a little cold water.  She showed me how to continue to gradually add cold water until the flour was dissolved in the mixture.  When it was time to start the gravy she showed me how to scald the pan with meat flavorings.  Then, after adding hot water to the flour mixture, it would be added immediately to the pan.  I have always been sure there's something about adding the hot water at the end that keeps gravy from lumping.

Tonight I decided I was making cubed steak with brown gravy.  As I moved the meat over to scald the pan and prepared my flour mixture, I thought of her.  It's hard to believe it has been 14 years since I last stood beside her in the kitchen.  I can make a mean gravy, but it's still not as good as Betty's.  I've never been quite able to make dumplings as good as her dumplings, stuffing as good as her stuffing, or bread pudding quite like she made.  I've never even attempted to make grape leaves or stuffed cabbage.  I know it will never be quite like the food she made.

There's nothing like a little gravy to add comfort to a meal.  The gravy doesn't keep me from missing my mother-in-law.  It doesn't keep from wishing she was still here to see her grandchildren.  It doesn't keep me from wanting to pick up the phone to call her and tell her stories about the latest antics of our kids.  She loved a good mischief story.  It doesn't keep me from wishing we were all going to gather in her kitchen, eat her food, and sit around the table with her.  It doesn't keep me from wondering why we had to lose her when we did, but it does bring me comfort; comfort in the memory of all she taught me in our time together.  Gravy isn't just a comfort food, it's a comfort memory.

11 comments:

  1. Cathy, this is a beautiful tribute. I can picture you and your mother-in-law in the kitchen and also desperately want you to cook me dinner. :)

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  2. A comfort memory. Wow!

    This is an exquisite slice of life story, Cathy. Not just because it chronicles the making of this special food, but it details a very special relationship you had with your mother-in-law. How lucky you were to have such a close and loving relationship with her. I'm sorry she isn't around to cook with you, listen to you, and spend time with her grandkids. I can tell you miss her deeply.

    How would you feel about me featuring this slice of life story in my daily "be inspired" section of the slice of life post? Please email me (stacey{at}staceyshubitz{dot}com) by Sat., 3/22 if that'd be okay with you. Thanks!

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  3. Cathy, this reminds me so much of my relationship with my mother-in-law who passed away almost two years ago. One year for Christmas I created a cookbook of "Flynn Family Recipes" for the whole family. My nieces are especially thankful to have this book. It's filled with more than recipes for them. It's filled with memories. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I love the idea of a "comfort memory." Such a beautiful piece of writing. And you make me want to try gravy, I've never gotten beyond the jar kind!

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  5. What a beautiful memory. I love how the kitchen moments and the gravy sequence made me imagine you standing next to Betty in the kitchen, moving from sink to stove, stirring and sharing.

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  6. What a wonderful tribute to Betty!!! She was one very special lady and she loved you all so very much!! We all miss her.. She is watching over all of you every day.. Thank goodness you have all the great memories.. This truly is a beautiful piece of writing..

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  7. That was a beautiful 'comfort memory.' What a gift she continues to be. So glad you shared those great memories.

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  8. I think it's no accident that we have some of our strongest memories associated with food. We can revisit those special memories every time we re-create those meals.

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  9. Lovely! And I'll just bet you'll be making similar memories with a daughter in law of your item some day! Comfort memory...love it!

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  10. Your story truly captures your mother-in-law's generosity and love. Thank you for sharing her recipe for gravy and for relationships.

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  11. I really like your last line. It is so true- gravy is a comfort memory. Isn't it wonderful how so many connections and memories and traditions happen around the making and sharing of meals.

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