purple gravy

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:

THE STORY OF THE PURPLE GRAVYhard-returngif

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!

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Here’s things going great! And my enormous mouth.

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:

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The most effective cure for the stomach flu is drinking a shit ton of cheap wine.
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Cheeks getting psyched up to cook. Quit staring at her face-butt, you big perverts.

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.

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Which is bigger? My mouth or the turkey’s gaping b-hole? Don’t worry, I know the answer.

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:

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It’s eerie how the cheeks always seem to be staring you RIGHT IN THE EYE.

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:

“BLARGH!”

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.

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Yup.

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.

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Also: when in doubt, throw a glass of red wine on the floor.

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i married a spaniard

As some of you already know, my husband hails not from the good old US of Hey but rather from a city on the coast of Northern Spain by the name of Santander.

Me in Santander looking pretty.
Me in Santander looking pretty.

Santander is the capital of the Spanish region known as Cantabria, and though the city itself was officially founded in 1755, its origins date as far back as 26 B.C. It is a beautiful port city with mild, oceanic weather and a population of almost 200,000 people, and because I have no shame and will try to hook readers any way I can, I will now casually mention the fact that the 2001 Nicole Kidman movie The Others was filmed there as well.

*clears throat*

So anyway. As you can imagine, It’s all kinds of interesting being married to a Spaniard. He and his family have welcomed me with open arms into their rich and celebrated culture, teaching me more than I could have ever thought possible about their beliefs and traditions and stuff and junk and whatnots. And I hope you’re interested in learning about these things too, because I was just settling in to tell you ALL about them, whether you wanted me to or not.

Ready?

Here we go!

1. In a Spanish family, you must NEVER. EVER. put your shoes on the table or your purse on the floor. Putting your shoes on the table risks bringing all manner of bad luck upon you and your family, and a purse on the floor means your ass ’bout to be as broke as all hell. FOR REAL, SON.

However, dirty socks on the living room floor are perfectly acceptable. Apparently.

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If you have a keen eye, you will notice that there are FOUR socks here. Which means that a) the original pair of dirty socks had a pair of dirty sock babies, or b) this was done on two separate occasions. I’ll leave you to solve the mystery.

2. If you have any knick-knacks or tchotchkes in the shape of elephants, they must always have upturned trunks and face away from the door or else BAD LUCK. While this superstition is not Spanish per se, I first learned of it from my husband and his family so in my mind it counts. (There’s also some debate about whether the elephant should face towards or away from the door. My husband’s family says away.)

Now hear this. I may believe in a mysterious bearded man who walks on water and lives in the sky, but I absolutely refuse to assign destiny-altering powers to inanimate objects. Mainly because I AIN’T CRAY. I do want my house to look good, however, and having decorations facing *backwards* is a concept I find totally and completely ridiculous. It offends my sense of design on a deep and almost visceral level. Thus, my husband and I have committed to waging a long, drawn-out, incredibly passive-aggressive battle over this particular item:

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I think this elephant candle holder that I got for $2 at Kroger looks completely stupid facing backwards (as is pictured above.) So after my husband goes to work I turn it around. Then when he gets home he turns it back. This has been going on for five years.

3. Spanish people eat twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I know this doesn’t sound so bad, but let me clarify — it’s not like you’re allowed to eat these twelve grapes calmly and at your leisure. Oh no. You have to eat one grape per bell chime at midnight — if you’re shitty at math, that’s one grape per second for twelve seconds.

Think about that. I mean really think about it. Actually, no. Go into your kitchen and get just one single grape and see how long it takes you to eat it. I bet it takes hella longer than one second. What I’m trying to say here is that eating twelve grapes in twelve seconds is pretty much impossible, which I guess is why it’s supposed to bring you a year of good fortune if you can manage it. But I’ve been with my husband for thirteen years and I don’t remember anyone in the family EVER actually doing it.

(SIDE NOTE: I hate fruit, so I try to bypass this particular tradition when and if at all possible. Unfortunately, I usually get suckered into at least making the attempt. When that happens, I just eat one single grape over the course of twelve seconds and then sneak the other eleven into the garbage. ¡Feliz Año!)

4. In a Spanish family, getting off of the phone can take anywhere up to 100 hours. Seriously. I’m not kidding around. This is my husband getting off the phone with his mother:

Husband: “OK. Ok, Mamá. Adios.”
Husband: (listening)
Husband: (listening)
Husband: “Sí. Sí.”
Husband: (listening)
Husband: “Sí, sí, sí. Adios. Sí.”
Husband: (laughs)
Husband: “Adios, Mamá. Adios.”
Husband: (listening)
Husband: (listening)
Husband: “Ok. Sí. Adios. Adios. Adios.”
Husband: (listening)
Husband: “Ok.” (laughs) “Sí, sí, sí. Adios.”
*click*
Me: “MY GOD. FOR REAL?”
Husband: “…what?”

5. The country of Spain has generated some amazing food phenomena that fortunately have nothing to do with grapes. Check it:

  • Olives and olive derivatives everywhere;
  • Paella (Rice with all kinds of delicious shit in it. My wonderful mother-in-law makes it with calamari, scallops, shrimp, sausage, and chicken);
  • Torrijas (French toast on Easter);
  • Turrón (nougat candy on Christmas); 
  • Croquetas (and tapas in general…yum);
  • Churros con chocolate;
  • Churros con chocolate; and did I mention?
  • Churros con chocolate.

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There are so many more things I could write about but I’m running out of time and space so I’ll have to come back to them on some future occasion. For now, I feel the need to mention that — in all seriousness — I truly love my Spanish husband and his family. Very, very much. I tease them about some of their cultural “quirks” just as they tease me about some of mine. And isn’t that what an increasingly global community full of international families should really be about? Making fun of each other’s shit and then laughing about it?

However, there is this one thing that is currently driving me completely fucking NUTS:

Me: “What are you watching?”
Husband: “Wimblundon.”
Me: “It is NOT pronounced that way. I’ve told you a thousand times.”
Husband: “Fine. How is pronounced?”
Me: “WIM. BULL. DONE.”
Husband: “That’s what I said.”
Me: “No it isn’t. Repeat after me. WIM. BULL. DONE.”
Husband: “WIM. BULL. DONE.”
Me: “Yes!”
Husband: “Wimblundon.”
Me: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Lucky for him he’s hot.

Another picture I took in Santander because butts.
Another picture I took in Santander because butts.