Over a cup of coffee: Remembering Dad and his milk gravy

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Dad's milk gravy

This gravy is made with the drippings left from frying meat, such as pork chops or tenderized beef steak. The best drippings come from meat that is cooked slowly, with the lid on. The amounts of flour and milk depend on the amount of drippings available and the amount of gravy needed.

Ingredients:

• Drippings from frying meat

• Flour (maybe ¼ cup)

• Milk (depends on the amount of flour)

• Salt and pepper, to taste

Remove fried meat to a plate. Stir flour into the drippings. Add a little milk. Cook over medium high, stirring continually so the gravy doesn’t burn. When the gravy mixture starts to thicken, add a little more milk. Continue in this manner until the gravy is at the desired consistency. When bubbles start to form in the center of the skillet, add salt and pepper (according to Dad, not before). Serve with mashed potatoes, biscuits or bread.

— Kenneth Osborn

This past Monday, Feb. 15, I lost my 92-year-old father. Since then I’ve done a lot of “remembering.” It’s amazing how many memories are connected to food and family meals together.

When I was a kid, families sat down around a big table and ate their meals together. (Even meals taken to the hay field were eaten together, though the table was apt to be a big rock.) As we nurtured our bodies with food, we also nurtured our minds. There was talk about most anything — world affairs, school, family history, what we’d done that day and a lot more.

The food was hearty because people worked hard and needed energy. Meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, salads and desserts were gobbled down. When there was pork, we had bacon, eggs and biscuits for breakfast. Otherwise, we had another kind of fried meat, gravy and biscuits.

Dad liked his coffee brewed in an old enamel coffee pot that looked like something out of a nightmare. That’s because Dad would allow the pot to be rinsed out with water only — absolutely no soap because he said it would ruin the coffee taste. The coffee was so thick it’s a wonder that it didn’t curl a person’s hair. Perhaps it did.

Dad knew how to cook, though he cooked only when Mom was away or if he was at cow camp. When he did cook, it was most often fried meat, milk gravy and biscuits. The gravy was his specialty. And, of course, it was washed down with his black coffee.

In the summer, we kids took turns riding with Dad to check cows. At night, we stayed at the cow camp cabin located on the national forest. I remember checking out the rows of canned goods on the cabin shelves. The cans had been put there by the ranchers early in the summer. My sisters and I drooled over the cans of spaghetti and meatballs, soups, stews, Vienna sausages and Spam. We never had “store bought” foods like them at home.

Perhaps Dad let us open a can or two. I don’t remember. What I do recall is Dad building a fire in the wood stove and frying up a skillet of meat (brought from home). He cooked the meat as slowly as possible, hoping for enough drippings to make gravy. When the meat was done, he removed it to a plate and mixed flour with the drippings. To that he added canned milk. Dad was very particular as to when the salt and pepper were added — only when the gravy was the right consistency and bubbles formed in the center of the gravy.

Dad learned how to make milk gravy from his mother, and then he taught me. Since then I’ve made lots of gravy. Sometimes Dad even helped me. At times we made biscuits from scratch to go with it.

I’ll miss you, Dad.

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