In America you can buy Thanksgiving gravy infused with cannabis, which my daughter says is one way gravy can enhance a meal.
‘Enhance is one word for it,’ I say thinking about the havoc a dose of THC, the chemical in cannabis, might have on Mother who loves gravy like F Scott Fitzgerald loved Gin Rickey’s.
We’re planning a BBQ to celebrate my daughter’s recent graduation. The question is: should we serve gravy or not?
I am passionately anti-gravy for many reasons, the key one being that gravy obscures and overwhelms the natural taste of everything it envelops. Poured over meat, it competes with the wonderful umami taste of cooked animal flesh. Slopped over steamed vegetables, the delicate flavour of the vegetable is drowned in a meaty flood and what is the point of producing dry, crisp roast potatoes only to soak them in a tsunami of liquid with lumps in it like slurry from a quarry?
‘Gravy is fog for food,’ I say.
‘Gravy is the glue in any roast meal,’ says my daughter.
‘Gravy is like glue full stop,’ I reply.
‘Only if made badly. Anyway, jus is just a pretentious name for the same thing,’ she quips.
‘Gravy is starch gelatinisation disguised behind a homely word,’ I reply.
‘When flour is added to pan juices and heat applied the mixture thickens in a process called starch gelatinisation. Gravy is starch.’
‘You need to spend more time focussed on important things, not gravy,’ says my daughter.
‘I accept gravy is a First World problem.’
‘With you, it’s more of an OCD problem,’ says my son.
Clearly, most people wouldn’t waste three minutes of their lives, let alone thirty, debating the pros and cons of gravy.
In Maslow’s hierarchy, gravy is a nice to have like self-actualisation, not a necessity like food and shelter.
Nor is gravy integral to Boris Johnson’s ‘Bounce Back’ strategy, though I could imagine jus being banned from British restaurants to signal to Michel Barnier we won’t hesitate to take back control of our sauces as well as our coastal waters if the Brexit negotiations get a little more choppy.
‘Surely, it’s important for children to learn to discriminate between jus and gravy?’ I say turning to my wife.
‘We’ve got more important things to get on with. This argument about gravy is a storm in a tea-cup,’ she says.
‘You mean storm in a gravy boat,’ I say, smiling.
‘No. I don’t,’ says my wife.
My mother perks up.
‘You used to watch gravy by the bucket as a child. Virtually drank it like water,’ she says.
‘Your brother and you loved it. You had your own separate gravy boats you loved it so much. You were paranoid about peas, too.’
‘Paranoid about peas? What do you mean, granny,’ says my daughter hoping her gentle question will unearth the smoking gun to give her victory over me in the case of ‘Gravy versus Jus’.
‘If they didn’t get exactly the same number of peas they’d fight. The only way to stop them fighting was to count the peas onto their plates one by one until they had the exact same number. Imagine it. Literally, counting peas one by one onto their plates before we could get on with the meal.’
‘That explains quite a lot,’ says my son.
‘I was just a dinner lady to them in those days,’ she continues.
This reminds me of my brother spitting on his roast potatoes, every Sunday lunch, to discourage me from stealing them and food fights and the dog snaffling food as it tipped from the table in uproar.
‘My God, there aren’t many good things about getting old. But not having to deal with you and your brother fighting over peas and potatoes is one of them,’ she says.
A shroud falls on the conversation not unlike a grey leaden gravy. Mother lifts a cup to her lips with both hands and sips her tea, silent. My wife googles something, my daughter leaves the room to find her boyfriend. My son asks me a question.
‘You know all this chlorinated chicken business?’
‘The UK / USA trade deal, you mean?’
‘Do you think we’ll be allowed to import cannabis gravy when it’s done?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
But I do know – even if it is allowed – it will be fifty years too late to heal any hurt done over those riotous Sunday lunches.