Good gravy! I have a friend who doesn’t say “Good grief!” à la Charlie Brown. He says “Good gravy.” I’ve adopted this saying. It’s the perfect comment on a situation. It raises or lowers the stakes of anything that is being said. (This same friend also allowed me to adopt his blessing of ‘All Good Things’ to title my blog years ago.)
I looked up the history of the saying “Good gravy,“ as I do with words and sayings that fascinate me. It’s a phrase said by those who didn’t want to utter “Good God!” and take the name of the Lord in vain, expressing surprise or anger without a hint of profanity. Fair enough. But then I looked up Good God and the history of those two words paired together was too 'good' not to share.
The brilliant etymologist Antony Liberman writes a love letter to the history of these words. Apparently, there is a smarty pants camp of word nerds that think the words good and god are related and Antony, clearly a smarty pants word guy himself, is firmly against this idea.
I’ve split my opinion down the middle and added some gravy. (Yes, really.) Good is related to gather and -gether and their root means ‘fit, suitable.’ The Germanic; that which is “good” which has been “fixed,” “assembled,” “put together” in a proper way. God is the giver of good things and certain parts of the old world clipped the double o in spelling as well as pronunciation and cut to the chase. “Our name of the most divine power, God, is…derived from Good, the chief attribute of God.” That was written somewhere in 1637.
(How ya doing? Are ya with me? I know it’s a little like “Who’s on first…” I love this sorta thing. Thank you for indulging me. Onward!)
Of course the word god takes on much religious history and meaning, but these are some of my favorite bits of the word’s past: The Greek word for “god” is theos. We find the same root in enthusiastic, or “possessed by a god,” which could mean “deranged” or “divinely inspired.” (Engl. enthusiastic is from French; Greek is its ultimate source.) The Germanic gods made one “giddy.” And then this: god can be compared with two Sanskrit words: one meaning “to invoke,” the other “to pour.” Fascinating.
Dear friends, I offer you a recipe for Good Gravy to pour over everything you could possibly want to eat this holiday season. We gather together with friends and family to invoke gratitude and joy this time of year. We assemble feasts. Gravy does indeed make me enthusiastic and giddy and it is the main inspiration for my holiday menus because it is the star condiment of the whole meal. The secret sauce that raises the stakes of anything on which it is poured. And if you are of a spiritual mind and adhere to the saying ‘God is in the details,’ God is in my gravy. Good Gravy, indeed!
Port Wine Gravy
I don’t just make this at the holidays. Gravy can be made for any protein, using any flavored and seasoned fat. It’s a sauce I cook year round. It makes any meal feel special.
- After roasting your chicken or turkey or roast beef or duck or goose or turducken or tofurkey or…, reserve all of the pan juices and browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Separate the pan juices from the fat by pouring them into a degreasing cup with a spout at the bottom. If you don’t have one, you can pour the drippings into any container.
- Chill the drippings in the container, and then scoop off the congealed fat and set it aside.
- Add ½ cup of the reserved fat to a skillet.
- As it melts, whisk in ½ cup flour and create a roux. Stir until golden, about 3 minutes.
- Generously salt and pepper this mixture and slowly whisk in ½ a bottle of port wine.
- Keep whisking to smooth out the lumps and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add the reserved juices, and 4 cups of chicken stock. Or if you can find it, demi glace will make it extra decadent (like the port isn’t enough!)
- Taste and add more port if you are inclined and continue simmering about 10 minutes to thicken.
- Taste again to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
A couple of tips:
- You can swirl in a bit of butter right before you bring it to the table to make it extra glossy and smooth.
- Lumps? Strain them, no one will know.