Home » History on a plate: Why the world loves gravy

History on a plate: Why the world loves gravy

by The Grio

When you think gravy, you think Southern.

Biscuits and gravy are like peanut butter and jelly, mustard on a hot dog, and ketchup and French fries. When you think of one, you think of another.

But when it comes to biscuits and gravy, that’s the Queen Bey and Jay-Z of foods. The gravy from our aunties’ and mamas’ kitchens has gone through an evolution that started in Europe, made its way to lumber mills, and has now become a breakfast staple.

Each year, we celebrate Black History Month, which recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of Black people. Through food, we can take these lessons one step further. 

All of the foods Black people love — from mac and cheese to potato salad to sweet potatoes — have roots in other cultures. Exploring those commonalities can help us learn a little more about each other. In essence, these foods can help bring us together.

Americans tend to think of gravy as milk-based and thick, but that’s not the way it always is or even how it started. 

Gravy has been around for centuries, with the earliest mention in The Forme of Cury, a collection of medieval English recipes from 1390. This one recipe has the name “Chykens in Gravey.” The gravy in Medieval times came from the fat drippings of meat that’s more akin to today’s au jus, according to Encyclopedia.com.

Gravy also has different meanings to different people. 

To Italians, gravy can mean spaghetti sauce. One story says that in 1902, an Italian woman called her sauce “gravy” in a New York newspaper, and that’s how the phrase started. Some historians speculate that Italians started using the term gravy to better assimilate into America. 

That use of the phrase may have taken off during “The Sopranos,” arguably the greatest-ever TV show. In one scene set in Artie Bucco’s restaurant, Vito Spatafore turns to mob boss Tony Soprano and says without irony,…

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