When I was little, I lived with my Great-Grandmother, my “Gram.” She was born and raised in rural Tennessee. She lived in a one-room house, a shack with many observations. There was no running water, a woodstove, and she shared a feather bed with her sister.
Growing up with her I was gifted this incredible culture of gardening for your own food, sewing what you need, and making with your own hands the life you want.
When I was little, we would sit on the front porch in rocking chairs, she would tell me stories of growing up in the woods, running wild with her sister, seeking out their own adventures. She barely had a 4th-grade education, didn’t have running water til she was a teenager, and loved to fish with her own handmade lures. My Gram was beautiful and amazing, to me, every word she spoke was magic.
She and I had many adventures. Together we were brave.
In the kitchen, she was creative and rich with history. She had traditions that she tried to pass down to me, some I have tried to bring with me and others I wish I had paid more attention to.
My Gram loved to cook with lard- the grease from cooking meat, usually bacon or beef fat. She had a large coffee can that sat on the counter, after breakfast she would pour the grease into the can. It would cool and harden on the counter. And at night she’d use that fat in the cast iron pans to make our dinner. She’d even put in the biscuits she’d make several times weekly.
There were always fresh biscuits in the bread box. On Saturday mornings, she’d make us a batch of sausage gravy and take those biscuits left over and pour the hot chunky gravy over the biscuits. We would sit together. She’d drink her Folger’s coffee, and I would watch her sip it with her beautiful shaky hands.
Her love of food, of passing down the memories of her childhood down to me through the meals she would make for me, they are some of my fondest memories.
As an adult, I’ve struggled with missing her after she passed. But in the kitchen, I think about the time she spent making things that not only warmed my tummy but lasted long after in my heart.
My family and I have been Pescatarians, vegetarians who occasionally eat fish, for many years. For both health reasons and the fact that my youngest child couldn’t digest red meat, we chose to let go of most animal products.
So for a long time, I was sad thinking about the loss of my Gram’s recipes that she had passed down to me. Then it occurred to me that part of her creativity in the kitchen was making due with what she had. If there wasn’t pork available, I know she told me many times of hunting rabbits, squirrels, etc. So why couldn’t I find ways to use what I have available to recreate some of her recipes?
Today I have found several of her recipes have been our family favorites.
After many tries, a few fails, and several years of fiddling with the recipe I’ve discovered that making her gravy without meat just requires some imagination.
Vegetarian “Sausage” gravy
1 roll of vegetarian “sausage” crumbled up
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbs butter + 1 for later
½ cup milk
In your pan, slowly start to bring it to a medium heat. Place your first 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan. Once it starts to sizzle, add your crumbled “sausage” pieces to the butter and begin to brown them. In a bowl, mix together your soup, milk, salt, and pepper.
Once your sausage is fully browned, pour your wet ingredients into the bowl and stir in well. Add the remaining butter to the gravy and keep stirring until bubbling.
I like gravy to be thick, but still soup like. You can add more or less salt and pepper to taste.
This is amazing over biscuits on a winter Saturday morning. But that is just my opinion. J