There were three rules at the dinner table when I was growing up. When reaching for anything, one foot had to remain on the floor, your butter could never be thicker than the bread and gravy was not a beverage.
I admit to being caught (on occasion) slurping from the gravy bowl. It both repulsed and enchanted me. I knew where it came from, that it required a dead animal to make – yet I couldn’t get enough. Gravy’s mysterious siren song had me enthralled.
It was only on very special occasions when Mom made gravy; holidays, birthdays, parole… If the smell of gravy was in the air, something exciting was happening, something big was about to occur.
To me, growing up poor in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere, gravy implied decadence, luxury and escape. I imagined vast mansions filled with beautiful, hedonistic people having fabulous dinner parties where they drank from overflowing gravy fountains with crystal goblets and laughed at the silliest of things. I knew when I “made it” that I would join them in their debauchery and that I would finally be somebody.
Even today, a staunch vegetarian, I will eat gravy. And not that thin brown swill concocted from vegetable stock, twigs and voodoo that earnest vegans try to pass off as the real deal. I’m talking the “full meal deal” gravy: thick, chunky and greasy with bits of animal floating in it. The kind with substance, that sticks to your ribs and doesn’t let go.
I suppose there is something familiar in it for me. I remember that little boy who wanted so badly to be anywhere than where he was, the one who dreamed of breaking free, of being special and of belonging. He loved his gravy then and he loves it now.
I don’t know if I’ve “made it” or not. I’ve certainly made it out of the woods, literally, figuratively remains a work in progress. I’ve definitely made it to a better place, one where I am (almost) comfortable in my own skin and feel like I’m loved and loveable – which are two very different things.
I don’t yet own a gravy fountain, but will continue to search.
I will absolutely continue to indulge in the occasional gravy beverage. Tip a glass to the past, the present and the promise of the future.