It was Thanksgiving day of last year. My husband and I hosted a few dozen family members for our big meal that afternoon. He smoked a 22-lb turkey in the new electric smoker I bought him for his birthday a few weeks prior. As he prepared the turkey (a 5 day process!), I reminded him that on the day-of I needed him to catch every single ounce of the precious drippings as the bird slowly cooked for the long 12 hours.
I needed every little bit because you see, gravy is a big deal to me. I don’t know if it is a mid-western thing or what, but food that has some kind of sauce to accompany it is my favorite food. In my opinion, gravy makes most things that much better. I do not like gravy so that it drowns the thing it accompanies or hides dry meat, but so that it compliments, accentuates and sends my tastebuds to new heights! A dish only needs a little gravy to achieve this, but with 20-something people to serve I needed it all. When my husband brought in those precious, dark and smokey drippings I was so ecstatic. I skimmed and whisked and salted and warmed over the stove minutes before we would eat our delicious meal.
As I whisked and watched my gravy come together so smoothly, I felt my Grammie walk over behind me and lovingly place her hands on my shoulder. She laughed at me and whispered in my ear, “honey, have you ever just thought of buying a jar of gravy?”. I laughed out loud at her question and exclaimed, “Grammie, I do not do things that way!”. She threw her hands in the air, giggling as she backed away saying “ok sweetie, I was just trying to help.”
I immediately needed my sister because she understands such things when it comes to making food from scratch. I feel passionately about it! I grabbed a spoon to taste the liquid heaven that was now ready to be served. It was completely amazing; smokey, savory and full of fresh herbs. It consoled my heart and soothed the suggestion of a can of congealed corn syrup my lovely Grammie suggested. By the end of the meal, she repented of her suggestion once she had my gravy.
I’m fairly certain that I’m now completely weird to most Mothers and Grandmothers in my love for doing things myself in the kitchen rather than relying on a box. I know that both my Grandmother and my husband’s Grandmother love the ’50’s industrial revolution-style of already prepared meals. I get it that they cooked in a time where convenience was a big deal. They remember watching their Mothers and Grandmothers working very hard to make EVERY thing they ate from scratch. I’ve heard stories they’ve told as they reminisce seeing cottage cheese, bread, sausage, cakes, pie crusts, spaghetti sauce and so much more being made from scratch. Not to mention all the canning of fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies and preserves. They knew first-hand how time-consuming all that stuff was. The convenience of a loaf of already made bread, already made jelly, already made anything was huge!
I do not condemn these foods, or anyone who prefers to use them. I buy peanut butter, I buy preserves, I buy loaves of bread and I buy spaghetti sauce in a jar even! However, I have just begun to learn how satisfying and fun it is to make things yourself. I generally try to do things from scratch because it is so fun for me to learn how things are made. It helps me to understand the food better and to know how to flavor other dishes, as well as, how to take similar processes and adapt them to new dishes. To me, the kitchen is such a fun little science lab. Not to mention pretty much everything I read says that making it yourself is always better. You use less ingredients that are harmful to you and you have the opportunity to lighten up meals by lessening sugars and fats.
I’m rambling now, but I say all this because there is just no substitute for taking the time to do something well. Because learning how to do something from start to finish teaches me not just one thing, but many things. I could take the short cut and buy the jar of gravy. But it cheapens the meal. It cheapens all the lessons that could be taught about how to make a perfect bowl of gravy.
Shortcuts are appealing. I love the easy route, the path of least resistance. But I keep learning and re-learning how much depth, quality and education I miss out on when I take that short cut.
Next time you are tempted to do what’s easy, ask yourself which is more rewarding in the long run? It’s a new question I’m asking myself too.