Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tomato Gravy Sunday

Many family traditions and family recipes begin with a single person. I'm not sure exactly who began the fabulous tomato gravy one, but as far as I can tell it was on the Sealy side of the family. Mac's mother was as fantastic a cook as my mother, but coming from different areas of the South their recipes were decidedly different, too. Mac's Mama made a plum cake that was so simple yet so delicious that people requested it by that name...Plum Cake. Basically it was a yellow cake put together with home made plum jelly and topped with the same. Sort of a jelly cake extraordinaire. I've made plum jelly but the only Plum Cake I've ever tasted was Mama McBride's. It seemed a sacrilege to make it while she was still living. She used to talk about her mother making "Shadow Gravy" during the depression. To make it they put some lard (not Crisco, but pure rendered down hog lard) in the frying pan (about 2 tablespoons) threw in about 2 tablespoons of flour and hung up a piece of side meat (fat back with a streak of lean through it) to throw a shadow on the pan...there wouldn't be enough meat during the week to go round, you see. Okay, that was probably a tale that got told, but tales always have a basis in fact. After Mac and I were married we would get to Alabama as often as we could, but with work and deployments (the Navy sure liked to float those boats) it was usually only about twice a year. Unfortunately visits were rare, life got in the way. The first time I had Tomato Gravy was shortly after becoming a McBride. We arrived in Shreveport, La late on a Friday night, I was introduced to the clan (Mac just sort of threw me in to sink or swim...do all husbands do that?) Saturday was a normal cereal breakfast and his sister Kathy taught me how to eat Grape Nuts with hot milk instead of cold...it's how I eat them to this day. But Sunday...now that was a breakfast to write home about. There were hot thick buttered grits, large portions of sausage patties, the most beautiful home made biscuits I have ever seen (apologies to my mother but the truth is the truth) perfectly fried eggs, each turned lovingly yolk unbroken and a steaming bowl of Tomato Gravy. The bowl was white and had a yellow rose with just a hint of the leaf showing...the gravy was smooth except for the bright red chunks of tomato that poked out of the surface like waves of ambrosia. Mac's Mama looked over at him, love shining out of her eyes and said "I made Tomato Gravy for you," and his Daddy said "why do we always have Tomato Gravy when the kids come home?" "Because they like it, " she answered simply. Oh...man...did we like it! Soon after, his dad retired from Cival Service where he had worked closely with the Air Force as a Crash Scene Investigator, they moved to Papa's home town of Selma, Alabama. That meant we got home a little more frequently and when my older son was two, we were stationed there (Mac was a Navy Recruiter). I watched carefully every time the Tomato Gravy was made and since we now lived close by, was often there to help in it's preparation. My boys learned to love it and soon it was an extension of the family tradition. Though we didn't have it every Sunday, more like once a month, it was something to look forward to. I didn't want to make it so frequently that it lost its specialness. I wanted it to be something they would look forward to when they came home. The way it was special to Mac when he came home. Even now I can picture our niece Kari's mouth watering...and I intend to make it this morning...I wish she were close enough to come join us. I'm going to call my older son and daughter(in_law) and tell them it's Tomato Gravy Sunday...maybe they'll come join us.



TOMATO GRAVY:

fry enough bacon or sausage to feed your family

empty a large can (14 ounces) of stewed tomatoes into a sauce pan and add 8 ounces of water and 1/2 tsp of salt...bring it to the boil and then cover and simmer till you're ready to use it. Put on a pot of grits and let it cook longer than the required cooking time...if it says it's done in five minutes, I hate to tell you but they're liars...let them cook at least fifteen minutes...and for those of you who have no idea what grits are or how to prepare them, I am so sorry for you...but just take this advice...never mind, you can't miss what you've never had...make hashbrowns instead.



Make a pan of biscuits and bake them till they're golden...you can use frozen biscuits or canned biscuits if you're so inclined, it won't hurt the flavor of the gravy...



If you have an iron skillet, please use it...this is what God intended the Iron Skillet to be used for. If you have fried the sausage in it (please tell me you fried the sausage or bacon in it) pour off excess fat drippings, leave at least two tablespoons in the bottom with any "crusties" that might be left...two heaping tablespoons of flour to be added to this when the pan is nice and hot...stir the flour in and make a roux, let it get chocolate brown...pour the simmered tomatoes into it all at once, stirring constantly...turn on low and cover while you're getting the rest of the breakfast (eggs) prepared the way you like them, scrambled or fried...if you don't like eggs, don't bother...pour up the gravy in a bowl grate fresh pepper over the top, give it a stir and call everyone to the table...split a biscuit open and ladle on the gravy. You're about to taste heaven. Oh, and a little side note here...seems they stick all kinds of extra spices in tomatoes these days like oregano or basil, NO NO NO...just plain tomatoes! Don't mess with success!

46 comments:

Terri and Bob said...

This sounds right up my alley. I eat diced canned tomatoes on my eggs (which grosses everyone out). I will have to try this. I am sorry I have been so AWOL lately, summer school is about to do me in. We are using a special company to make things easier... H A. I am so busy I don't have time for any fun.

Have a great weekend!

Akelamalu said...

I didn't know until I read you recipe I already make tomato gravy it but I just call them fried tomatoes.

Sandi McBride said...

Oh I'm so glad you're tomato lovers...with 64 plants I may need a home for some of them!
Sandi

Mima said...

I just love old family recipes, I have several of my Mum's that I love and we use including a very easy fish pie that is delicious, but nothing beats the original persons cooking. I have never had a proper American breakfast, and it sounds like I am missing out on something pretty important!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Golly, Sandi, could you have made that pic any smaller? I want to really see that yumminess! I don't know why this sounds good to me. I'm such a fusspot, but I promise that I'll give it a whirl and, when I do, I'll tell you about it!

Hope that you're having a wonderful Sunday!

Paul Sears Photography said...

Tomato gravy - interesting. Now the plum cake on the other hand sounds delicious! When I was growing up my mom would pick up plums at the store and let them get warm and ripe in the summer heat. I remember that fondly, and plums are a definite fave!

Jeni said...

Well -ok, my kids and I are Yankees here ya know but we love grits -with butter, salt and pepper. I've never tried them with ANY kind of gravy. Now, sausage gravy with biscuits -another favorite food item here too. But I've never had "Tomato Gravy" and another kind of gravy I've never had but which a good buddy of mine from North Carolina told my Mom and I there was nothing better than having country fried ham and "red eye" gravy. He tried to explain to my Mom how to make it but me thinks he was probably a bit tipsy at the time and not to be trusted as to the ingredients, etc. Got a recipe for that too while you're doling recipes out?

Jeanne said...

Mmm I love tomatoes. This sounds right up my alley. My mouth was watering with every delicious word.

LivingTheLife said...

I'll have to try that...I make something similar with pork chops...for dinner...add onions, bell peppers...and of course the pork chops with the tomato based gravy...the kids love it...it's great over rice, too.

Hmmmm I may have to start a new tradition...or give the recipe to my lovin hubbin and let him start it...he's the breakfast...king!

Blessings...
Teresa

Donna said...

OH MY GOSH!!! OH MY WORD!!! YOU'RE THE FIRST PERSON IN YEARS TO KNOW ABOUT TOMATO GRAVY!!!LOLOL....I'm SO Excited!! No One and I mean No one around here has EVER heard of it and they always turn their noses up at the Very idea!!!LOL...I Swear it must be an Air Force thing or Something..The Only other people in our world who eat this are our friends in San Antonio!!! They taught us how to make it 36yrs ago! I Gotto go tell Hubby that I found another..."one of US"...LOL...hughugs

Lori said...

that breakfast sounds yummy Sandi:)

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Oh I am dying here!!! Tomato Gravy, my favorite. Grandma used to make it everytime we ate breakfast there...ahhhhhhhhhhhh. The last time I tasted any made by a McBride was when mom made some for Sherri. They saved me a little bitty tiny bowl - I was so jealous that mom made it without me being there. I mean, geez, they could have called! I was 3 miles down the road!! lol But then I got over it and took my little bowl somewhere quiet and ate every single drop. I can't ever taste tomato gravy without thinking of Grandma McBride. She was the best at it. And those biscuits! And her grits...yeah, I am dying here. lol
My best friend in the whole wide world made me some tomato gravy the last time we were in Florida - how sweet is that? (She knows I'm a moron in the kitchen and incapable of making decent gravy myself). Because she knows how much I love tomato gravy, the gesture meant the world to me.

This was a GREAT post. I mean a really great post. I just ate dinner and am as full as can be. But if someone shoved a bowlful of tomato gravy under my nose right this very minute, I'd dive right on into it and wouldn't come up for air until that bowl was licked clean. lol

Love ya'll!
Sissy

Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

I have never heard of tomato gravy! It sounds wonderful. I have to confess, even though I live in NC, I am a northern girl. Born and raised in Michigan. So grits, bisquits and gravy are all new to me...I will try this lovely recipe of yours!
Penny

justabeachkat said...

Oh Sandi

I grew up on my Mama's tomato gravy, but we had it for dinner instead of breakfast. There's nothing like it. I did a post on it one time. Go here to see the way we have it in our family.

http://justabeachkat.blogspot.com/2006/08/moms-cooking.html

Hugs!
Kat

david mcmahon said...

When you and Mac come round for dinner and I put on the World's Best Roast - I want you to rate my gravy!

dot said...

I came by way of David's. Being from Alabama I do love tomato gravy but I was grown before I'd eat it and not for b'fast but on rice at other meals.
Good post!

Brenda said...

Sandi what a great post. This Southern girl can sure understand it.
I would have loved to be sitting at your table.
Love and big hugs,Brenda

Christine of Epiphany said...

Southern wisdom: "everything tastes better when cooked in an iron skillet"
I really enjoyed reading about your southern food memories!

SandyCarlson said...

That sounds wonderful! I love the narrative--a great regional story about tradition and family life.

Christine of Epiphany said...

By the way, terri&bob, I love to eat diced tomatoes on my eggs, too!

Jan said...

Of all the meals my mama and grandmama made me when I was a kid, tomato gravy was not included! Huh? Wonder why? While I LOOOOVE tomatoes, I'm not a cooked tomato for breakfast kind of girl!
And what's with all these people who don't "get" grits? I had to teach my New Jersey husband all about them! He was kinda like Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny saying "What exactly IS a grit anyway?". Unbelievable! LOL!
Great post!

Jan

Pam said...

I've never had that before but it sounds yummy!

Stacey said...

Sandi you always tell the best stories, I sure hope you print these journals off for future generations (not that you won't be around for oodles of years to tell 'em!). I've never heard of such a thing, though, I'm not sure about it. Are you sure it's something I need to make? I'll try anything once, idk, I think I'm going to print the recipe off and chew on it for awhile.

xoxo Stacey

PS--you'd better believe I'll walk you through digiscrapping, you'll be hooked forever after. Oooh and you can be part of my CT, get the stuff for free and make layouts, how about them tomatoes? Heehee!

i beati said...

i am sooooo hungry for it alll !! sandy

joan said...

Okay first what is rendered down hog lard? LOL Whatever it is I bet it makes everything taste better. My hubby's grandma used to make the best pancakes in a huge iron skillet with lard, she made them huge and paper thin, best things I ever had. I've never had tomato gravy but if it's southern I know I will like it.

Theresa said...

Hi Sandi,

I love your comment about the iron skillet :) my mother had a clay pizza stone that she hardly ever washed because it would take away the flavors- I think of big heavy skillets the same way.

Love the changes you made to your blog. Love the quote, try killing them with kindness :)- also Miss Digby must of been a great pet- she looks so beautiful and friendly.

I'll be back writing soon-thanks for the visit.

Mockingbird Hill said...

Stop It! You're killin' me here! This is something my MeMaw amde for breakfast and I have never found any as good as hers...but your recipe sounds like it might be pretty dang close...

2AM...I'm hungry...shesh...

Cassie

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I just love your recipe. I can't eat tomatoes! But your post has made me feel very hungry all the same!! There are many old recipe books in this house which go back before the war even. I might publish a few recipes one day.

Crystal xx

Sarah said...

Sandi,
Not only do I not know what grits are - but what on earth are biscuits - I know what they are in Inkerland, however I suspect if your stickin' gravy (tomato or otherwise) on 'em they ain't hob nobs!

Stacey said...

You let me know what her favorite colors / items are and I'll gift you something to start you out with. :)

Angie(quillysilly) said...

Oh goodnesss....that sounds like heaven! I love the stories of how our traditions come about...Thanks for sharing! Angie

Mary Isabella said...

Okay when are you going to make this again and when are you going to invite me to eat it. I have lived in the south all of my life and have heard of this but I have never eaten it. LOL.....Hugs....Mary

Kathryn said...

Oh how food can bring families together. Warms my heart and makes my mouth water at the same time. :)

Thank you for your comment on my post. It means so much to me. And thank you for the prayers as well. I'll take 'em!

Love Bears All Things said...

Well, I enjoyed reading this story. But we never had that type of tomato gravy. What we did was make sawmill gravy(you know, adding milk to the roux), then put some slice ripe tomatoes in the plate and put the gravy on top. I like gravy on eggs too. We also ate cantelope with gravy. My husband had never done either until he married me. I grew up with little meat at meals other than breakfast and that was on weekends. We did have fried fatback, bologna and lots of game like squirrel and rabbit. Any excuse to make the gravy. My mother even fried slices of sweet potatoes and made gravy and biscuits.
Mama Bear

smilnsigh said...

If you have an iron skillet... What wistful words are those, for people who don't.

Yes, we do! Yes, yes, yes, we do!!! :-)

Mari-Nanci
Smilnsigh

Jeff B said...

When I saw tomato gravy I imediately flashed to what my Italian wife makes. As an American I always grew up calling it red asuce or pasta sauce, but to her it always has been and always will be gravy.

The first time she made pasta and said we were having gravy with it, I thought she'd lost her mind. I was thinking of cousre of the brown "gravy" I'd grown up with. Boy did we have a good laugh about that one.

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hey, Sandie, oh my gosh...my mama makes tomato gravy too. I grew up eating tomato gravy on grits and homemade biscuits. I've never made it myself, but my mama will still make it on request when we visit & eat those big breakfasts. Love those big Southern breakfasts. I didn't realize you are from AL or have ties here? Sounds like at least your Dad is from here. How fun!

Thanks for the link to that other blog in Vienna. Pretty pics, but I couldn't tell how to get to Venice pics, I didn't see an index of posts.

Thank you for coming by to see me!
Rhoda

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Oh, and my mom makes it for dinner and serves it with rice too.
My dad loves it. Funny how all of that got started in the South. I know how my family started eating like that...it was called poor!

Rhoda

womaninawindow said...

The traditions of food...amazing things. Thankful for them. Wondering what traditions we're creating now without evening realizing...

Lib said...

Hi,
I Love tom. gravy, and most I know has never heard of it. My recipe is a bit different.
Hope you're having a great wk.
Blessins',Lib

BritGal' Sarah said...

Yummy, thanks for the story and the recipe, I will be giving it a go soon :-)

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

You know...I keep buying cans of tomatoes and then when I go to grab a can when I am cooking see that it has all kinds of herbs in it that I don't want! I probably shouldn't tell this but my grandmother made the best fried eggs ever....fried in lard. (She had a tobacco farm in N.C. and lived to be almost 90)

Jamie Dawn said...

Oh man!!!! That's MY kind of eating!!!!
I love a good, country breakfast, and I have never heard of tomato gravy. It sounds YUMMY!!
Thanks for sharing the recipe. Some people are very selfish with their good, family, tried-and-true recipes.
I hate those people.
:-)

Susie Q said...

I have been so awful about visiting everyone and am working to rectify this...and THIS is what I have missed. Your posts are so wonderful. Little bits of history and delight and fun and inspiration.

I spent so many Summers in TN and still love tomatoes ANY way, grave, grits and biscuits. Tomato gravy...oh wow.

It is almost 11 pm and here I sit wanting some...

Love,
Sue

bj said...

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE...here I am, 70 years old and have never even HEARD of TOMATO GRAVY but I can tell you that I will be trying it. My sweet Bill will just love it, I know without asking...
We USED to use bacon grease in everything and, boy, is it so good...now that we are older and wiser, I have to literally MAKE myself pour it in the trash...nearly breaks my heart every time, too.
I love reading your stories....
hugs, bj

DebraK from ~the Bunnies Bungalow~ said...

This kind of food fascinates me....I'm positive I would love it. Now I'll have to dig out my iron skillet & give it a try....along with fried green tomatoes. Being from the north I haven't ever had these foods, but I do want to! Right now!

Your memories are such fun to read, Hugs, DebraK