During my formative years gravy (along with canned vegetables, boxed vegetables, meat and milk) made up my five food groups. There was something about that thick, comfortable, gray liquid that made food taste better. Any food, didn’t matter what the dish was, could be enhanced with gravy. And no one did gravy better than my grandma. When the time came for me to switch to a vegetarian diet I was completely ok with it because I could still eat her gravy. At Thanksgiving I would skip the turkey and pile gravy all over mashed potatoes, corn and stuffing. It wasn’t until later that I realized gravy was a meat based food and any true vegetarian wouldn’t touch the stuff. I remained a false vegetarian for a short time before eventually giving gravy up completely.
Knowing what gravy meant to younger me, especially around the holidays, in recent years I began playing around with different versions that were meat free. None of them really made me sit back and say ‘Just like grandma used to make.’ That all changed a few weeks back. I was eating a hot tofu sandwich and thinking about how grandma’s gravy would really enhance the meal. The room suddenly went cold and dark. At the far wall a ghostly outline appeared. It was my grandmother. We exchanged pleasantries for a bit, I caught her up on everything that had happened since her passing. The topic shifted to the sandwich that I was eating and the problem I had making a good vegetarian gravy:
Me: This thing needs gravy like you used to make, minus the meat. But I’ve been stumped trying to recreate it. Help!
Ghost Grandma: Part of the reason I haven’t gone on to the big gravy train in the sky is because I too was seeking an answer for you. I think I’ve found it. The afterlife has taught me cauliflower and beans make a great gravy.
Just like that she faded, whisked away probably to teach my brother how to make a mince meat pie. I used her knowledge and my kitchen play to make a batch (blogged about here). But the tofu required so little that I was left with a huge bowl full. I needed something to use the remaining gravy up. I did a little research and found that a number of people like to make orzo and gravy. Perfect, I could do that.
I treated the orzo like risotto. I toasted three cups of orzo in olive oil over medium heat for five minutes. I added an equal amount of vegetable stock to it, covered and cooked until the liquid was absorbed. At that point I added the gravy and continued cooking, over low heat, until the meal had the consistency I desired. Then I ate it.
While the gravy is an intense bit of work full of ingredients, the dish as a whole is one that is exhibits a bit of subtle beauty. The same can be said of Sydney’s Battleships who have recently offered the video for their track ‘Your Words’ to the world. It is a track that exudes, aside from the aforementioned subtle beauty, intelligence. It is massive in sound, with evocative melodies and interesting instrumental arrangements that place it in anthemic territory. To catch this feeling visually, one just takes a sun soaked jaunt through fields of green with the intention of burying a coffin.
Also demonstrating the ability to shine is Freddy Hall’s “If You Hold Love, Keep it in Your Hands.” While not as bright and big as what Battleships is offering, this track has moments where everything seems to be clicking and ticking in unison. Freddy has been traveling through Kenya recently and dreaming about Twinkies, Mac and Cheese and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I’m sure Orzo with Cauliflower Gravy could be added to that list.
The new Dum Dum Girls single “Lord Knows” would also make a nice fit for this dish: