Meat Without the Appropriate Gravy

Occasionally in life, some things just don't match.  We can't always be sure that we won't end up wearing a tuxedo with brown shoes, or that our birthday cake isn't dotted with votive candles, or even that sherbet won't replace ice cream with that cake.

What I'm trying to say is, even after our best efforts to make sure everything is perfect, we often wind up with the imperfect.  It's a lesson I tried to teach my kids because substitution, in my book, can be elevated to an art form. 

Jen, a natural baker at heart, took to this notion like a duck to water.  She can whip up any recipe, deleting this, adding that, and generally working around any ingredient that she doesn't have on hand or doesn't have the time to get.   Brad, too, can be persuaded to use something other than what's required.  But, he draws the line at food.

As a baby, Brad was a particularly good eater with a digestive tract like a kitchen drain.  Everything went down and hardly anything came back up.  He loved to dine on all the Gerber favourites -- sweet potatoes, carrots, peas (yes, peas!), all the pureed fruits on the shelf, and even that yucky, pasty meat in a jar.  If he smelled it, he loved it.

As he matured into his teens and twenties, Brad acquired a more finicky palate.   Like a lot of kids, he doesn't like any food on his plate to touch any other food.  Potatoes need to occupy a separate corner of his dinner plate.  Meat has to sit in solitary confinement far away, and vegetables, if he can be persuaded to eat any, exist in a lonely little pile off to the side.  He's a good salad eater, but just make sure the salad is in a separate bowl, not -- I repeat, NOT -- heaped on the plate with the rest of his dinner.  To him, the visual effect is almost as important as the taste.

Being a meat and potatoes type guy, there is one exception to all of this compartmentalizing.  He loves gravy on his meat.  Meat without gravy is like cornflakes without milk to Brad.  There's just no point to eating one without the other.

Every Sunday I usually liked to make sure I whipped up a dinner for my family that I could be proud of -- a truly fine cut of meat  with mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and salad.  I did, however, use the powdered gravy mixes found in most grocery stores and available in any flavour simply because it always turned out tasty and didn't give my husband a bad case of heartburn.  What I didn't always consider, in my haste to get in and out of the store, was whether I had remembered to purchased the beef gravy along with the roast of beef, or the chicken flavoured gravy to go with the roasted whole chicken I planned on serving.

More often than not, I admit, I served whatever gravy flavour I had in the cupboard -- pork with beef gravy, or chicken with pork gravy.  It just didn't always come together the way I had intended!

To this day, Brad will ask me what's for dinner, and whether we have the appropriate gravy.  And I just smile and nod my head.

Maybe someday they'll make a one-size-fits-all gravy flavour to cover all kinds of foods.  Not only will that solve my little dilemma, but that will be the day that my son's food will touch!