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Thanksgiving 2009 was not a good Thanksgiving.
My sister Anne was in charge of gravy that year. Unfortunately, she was also in charge of An Incredibly Juvenile and High-Maintenance Boyfriend, a thankless task which left her feeling frazzled, distracted, and overcome with anxiety. When it came time for her to strain the turkey drippings, her mind was understandably elsewhere, and she forgot to put a receptacle under the strainer. The base for our gravy went right down the sink.
Fortunately, we had back-up gravy, and a Thanksgiving dinner crisis was averted.
Enter Thanksgiving 2010.
The absence of The Incredibly Juvenile and High-Maintenance Boyfriend marked an auspicious start to the holiday weekend. Things were going to go great! And go great they did . . . for about twelve hours. Which is when I got the stomach flu and started barfing all over everything and shitting all over everywhere.
Fortunately, it was only a 24-hour bug, because my sister and I were responsible for preparing Thanksgiving dinner the very next day.
Morning broke, and meal prep began. My sister asked me if she could handle the gravy, as atonement for the previous year’s “incident.” Convinced that The Great Gravy Disaster of 2009 had been a once-in-a-lifetime culinary whoopsie, I agreed.
This time, when Anne strained the turkey drippings, she made sure to actually catch them. But she soon began to express concern that the gravy was too thin. I told her to add a little corn starch, NBD, then turned my attention towards a different part of the meal.
But I wasn’t at it long when Anne said, “BLARGH!”
It was followed by a “COME TASTE THIS” that did not sound remotely promising. It was certainly not a “Mmm! This is delicious! Come taste this!” It was definitely more along the lines of a “This tastes like throw-up. Seriously. Come taste this.”
My sister handed me the gravy, and I tasted it. It tasted BAD. More than “this tastes slightly off” bad. More than “two flavors that don’t go together very well, like orange juice and toothpaste” bad. More than “is this actual poison?” bad. Just horribly, completely, indescribably BAD.
I spit it out into the sink.
“What happened?!” I asked.
“I don’t know!” said Anne, stupified. “I just kept adding corn starch until it thickened up.”
Me: “How much did you add?”
Her: “I dunno. About a cup?”
AN ENTIRE CUP?!
I’ll be generous and say that four tablespoons of corn starch would have been more than enough to thicken up that gravy. One cup, the amount Anne actually used, is the same as sixteen tablespoons. Which is why the gravy tasted like baby powder soup.
And this time? We did NOT have back-up gravy.
My sister and I panicked. We knew it was unthinkable to have a Thanksgiving dinner without gravy. So we ran to the Internet, where we found a red wine and onion gravy which sounded incredibly barfy but did not require ANY meat stock. An important point as we did not have even one drop left to use.
We made it. And it was bright purple.
It didn’t actually taste that bad. It wasn’t GOOD, exactly, but it wasn’t bad. My 70-year-old father barely touched it, of course, but the rest of us managed to muscle through.
Until a few hours later, when my sister got the 24-hour stomach flu and spent the rest of the night puking up purple gravy. Which leads me to the moral of this story: ALWAYS have back-up gravy.