My mother always worked outside the home. When she was home, she spent her time fashioning beautiful and useful garments for her family and clients—not cooking. Consequently, I grew up on lovingly-prepared meals out of a box or can. Everything I now know about cooking from scratch and using whole foods from my own backyard, I taught myself. Except for gravy.
I remember our first week of marriage like yesterday. I wanted to impress. I wanted to be cherished for my skill in the kitchen. I wanted my new husband to waltz into the office each morning boasting to his co-workers about the supper I so lovingly prepared the evening before. Picture my dismay the night I served the gravy.
I baked chicken. Peeled, boiled, and smashed potatoes. Washed, tore, and diced a salad. I tossed fresh linens and lit candles for ambience. Then, at first bite, he spit with disgust, insisting something was bad. “What is in that gravy?” he demanded, horror cloaking his face. I, awash in tears, could not explain.
I’d never made gravy before. And since I knew how important it was to this fresh groom, I did what every new bride does—I called mom. “Oh that’s easy,” she crooned. “Just add enough milk to a can of cream of chicken soup to thin it, and heat.” So, I did. Once composed, I conveyed this to my gravy-worshipping husband. “I need to take you home to mother,” he roared. And so he did.
Ingredients in Cream of Chicken Soup
Besides the flavor, however, there are no less than 30 ingredients in a can of cream of chicken soup. They would include:
- Disodium guanylate—“is not safe for babies under twelve weeks, and should generally be avoided by asthmatics and people with gout, as guanylates are metabolized to purines.”*
- MSG—“Since glutamates are important neurotransmitters in the human brain, playing a key element in learning and memory, there is ongoing study by neurologists about possible side-effects of MSG in food but no conclusive studies drawing any connections.”**
- Sodium—A whopping 870 milligrams per ½ cup serving, to be exact. And since my hubby is quite generous with his helpings of gravy, you can bet I don’t want to use cream of chicken soup in making it. So here is how my dear mother-in-law taught me how to make gravy—using only 6 ingredients.
How to Make Milk Gravy
- If you have meat drippings in a pan (like after frying chicken) use them, otherwise, melt a stick of butter in your pan.
- Stir in a big spoonful of white flour with a whisk real fast so as not to get lumps.
- After you have it stirred into a smooth consistency, slowly add the milk. If you are using drippings, you use all milk. If you started with butter, use about half milk and half chicken broth so that you have the chicken flavor. Also, salt and pepper to taste.
- Continuing with your whisk, stirring constantly, add milk until you have the gravy the thickness that you like. You can stand a spoon up in my mother-in-law’s gravy. I like mine to be pourable so I add a little more liquid than she does. It’s all in personal preference.
My mother-in-law is a right country cook. She’s also a patient teacher; because it took her years to train me in gravy making. But I am thankful for that time spent with her in the kitchen. And I think her son is thankful, too.
Photo by Glory Foods