In the South, gravy is a food group! In Texas, gravy is a side dish, a must for everything from biscuits at breakfast to chicken fried steak for dinner (or I should say supper — because that is what we call the evening meal in Texas). Gravy heals the soul and makes everything better in the process.
When I hear the word gravy, I smell, then taste my grandmother’s cream gravy as she called it. The best gravy on the face of the Earth, nectar from the gods, that wonderful concoction of flour, butter (or best yet – bacon grease), and milk cooked to perfection with jus the right amount of black pepper and salt to satisfy the taste buds of even the uninitiated. My mother made wonderful gravy, but it was not the same gravy as my grandmother’s … even though, they used the exact same ingredients married in the bottom of their beloved cast iron skillet her gravy was different from her mother’s. Gravy makes everything better and everything that is better has come to be called “gravy”.
In the summer of 1992, gravy took on a whole new and different meaning to me. That summer, I along with several of my teachers took the three week NJWPT (New Jersey Writing Project in Texas) Writing Institute. This three weeks was as demanding as any graduate class I had ever taken and let me to find myself along the way. I never thought of myself as a writer although writing always came easy for me. Joyce and Eddie showed me that I was a writer and had something to share with the world. My life was in transition at that point, a secret I kept from everyone, especially my teachers. I was seeking a new principal position and would be leaving them at the end of July.
During the course of the Writing Institute, one or sometimes both of the directors would read poetry aloud to our group every day after our lunch break. This is when I was introduced to Raymond Carter’s Gravy during a reading by Eddie Wilson. This poem had special meaning to Eddie and he read it with his entire soul. I am sure somewhere along the way, I had read or heard this poem read, but Eddie’s reading made me really sit up and listen. Some people just have that way with making words familiar to you seem new and different and have them take on meaning with a fresh listen and new eyes.
Below is Carver’s Gravy:
No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”
Now, Eddie had a beautiful voice for reading anything out loud, but this poem was his and it touched us all. Before he began reading, he dedicated the reading and the poem to his wife Joyce Armstrong Carroll, the other half of the this amazing duo teaching us how to be better writers so we could teach others.
A few years after this summer, Joyce and Eddie compiled and published a wonderful collection of those poems they read to us each day after lunch. Aptly titled Poetry After Lunch: Poems to Read Aloud, they each made a dedication to the other at the beginning of the book
Here is Eddie’s dedication to his wife Joyce – the love of his life:
because you took “the apple in exchange,”
and for all that time it’s been nothing
but gravy, for without you,
“all the toys of the world would break.”
E. E. W.
Today’s blog is dedicated to Joyce Armstrong Carroll and her husband Edward E Wilson. They opened my eyes to the joy and wonder of writing.
I also dedicate this blog to my beautiful mother and my grandmother. At their apron strings I leaned the love and joy of cooking and how to make my own gravy!
As always, I wish you peace, joy and happiness, but most of all I wish you LOVE. After all, Love is Gravy!
As Ever, Annie
*Poetry After Lunch: Poems to Read Aloud published by Absey & Co. 1997.
First Published 1/21/2013