Children, vagrants, and loyal so-and-sos – it is now time for you to gather round the fireplace and listen in astonishment and wonder as Granny Sarah tells you the fabled story of The Purple Gravy.
(Though, if Granny Sarah was smart, she would save the story of The Purple Gravy for the month winding up to Thanksgiving. Then she’d publish it, sit back, and watch it go viral. But Granny Sarah is a willful sumbitch who may or may not be dumber than a box of pubic hair. And she wants to tell the tale of The Purple Gravy RIGHT. NOW.)
So hitch up your britches, have a seat, and listen as Granny Sarah spins the extraordinary yarn that is:
Thanksgiving 2009 was not a good Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it, because I have sworn to protect the privacy of a certain douchebag who ruined the whole holiday, but suffice to say it was *extremely* uncomfortable and stressful. By the time Thanksgiving dinner FINALLY rolled around after the longest and most distressing three days of my life, everyone involved was at the end of their wits. (Yep. End of their wits. I said it.)
My sister Cheeks, who is an amazing cook, was the one in charge of the gravy that year. But thanks to The Douchebag Who Must Not Be Named, she was frazzled, distracted, and overcome with anxiety. She went to strain the turkey drippings — and forgot to put a receptacle under the strainer. The base for our gravy went right down the sink.
Fortunately, we had back-up gravy, and a Thanksgiving dinner crisis was neatly averted.
Still, Cheeks was bound and determined to make up for The Great Gravy Disaster of 2009. Enter Thanksgiving 2010.
We went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving that year. It was just Cheeks, my parents, my husband, my son, and myself. The marked absence of The Douchebag Who Must Not Be Named was noted as an auspicious start to the holiday weekend. There was also a Wii and Super Mario involved. Things were going to go great!
And things did go great… for about twelve hours. Then I got the stomach flu the day before Thanksgiving and started barfing all over everything and shitting all over everywhere.
It was a 24-hour bug. Which was fortunate because my sister and I were in charge of preparing the Thanksgiving meal, and I needed to be back on my feet in order to cook. And I was. THANKFULLY. (See what I did there?)
Here are some pictures:
As we laid out our strategy for the meal, Cheeks asked me if she could handle the gravy, to compensate for the previous year’s “incident.” Knowing my sister to be an excellent cook, and well aware that The Great Gravy Disaster of 2009 had been a once-in-a-lifetime culinary whoopsie, I said:
“Go for it.”
Famous last words.
Fast forward four hours. The turkey was done and had come out of the oven to cool. Almost as if I knew this was going to be a blog post someday, here is a picture of me posing with it.
Cheeks strained the turkey drippings, this time making for damned sure that there was a receptacle underneath the strainer to catch them. With a good quantity of drippings well in hand, she began to prepare the gravy, though she was worried it was going to end up a little thin. I said:
“Add a little corn starch.”
More famous last words.
Per my instructions, she started adding some corn starch. In fact, here’s a photo of her doing it:
I turned my attention away from Cheeks and her gravy preparations and focused on one of the other tasks that needed to be completed before the turkey was cool enough to carve. But I wasn’t at it long before Cheeks said:
Which was then followed by a “COME TASTE THIS” that did not sound promising. Not promising at all. It was certainly not a “Mmm! This is delicious! Come taste this.” It was definitely more along the lines of a “This tastes like throw-up. Seriously. Come taste this.”
Cheeks handed me the gravy. And I tasted it. And it tasted bad. Like — BAD. Not rancid bad. Not “I think this might be poisonous” bad. Not even “two flavors that don’t go together very well, like orange juice and toothpaste” bad. Just horribly, completely, indescribably BAD.
I spit it out into the sink.
“What the hell happened?” I asked Cheeks.
“I don’t know!” she said, stupified.
Me: “Well, what did you do?”
Her: “I kept adding corn starch to it until it thickened up.”
Me: “How much did you add?”
Her: “I dunno. Like… about a cup?”
AN ENTIRE CUP?!
ARGO Cornstarch recommends using 2 tablespoons per cup of broth to give it a thicker, more gravy-like consistency. Let’s be generous and say we had two cups of turkey broth going on that fateful day. If we take Argo’s suggested ratio as Bible truth, Cheeks *should* have used four tablespoons to thicken that shit up. One cup, which is roughly what Cheeks put in the gravy, equals SIXTEEN TABLESPOONS. Which is why the gravy tasted like baby powder soup.
And we did NOT have back-up gravy.
We panicked. We knew it was unthinkable to have a Thanksgiving dinner without gravy. It was, as Wallace Shawn says in The Princess Bride, “inconceivable!” So we practically broke our butts running to the Internet.
Neither Cheeks nor I remember the exact recipe we found but it was something like this – a red wine and onion gravy that did not require ANY meat stock, since we did not have even one drop left to use. We thought it sounded kind of barfy, but as actors on BBC America say, “Needs must.” So we made it.
It was purple.
It didn’t actually taste that bad. It wasn’t GOOD, exactly, but it wasn’t bad. My seventy-year-old father barely touched it, of course, but the rest of us managed to suck some down. We finished Thanksgiving dinner, marveled at Cheeks’ continued bad luck with gravy, and went to bed.
Which was when my sister got the 24-hour stomach flu and spent the rest of the night puking up purple gravy.
And the moral of this story? ALWAYS have at least two jars of back-up gravy. ALWAYS.