There comes a time when a man must stand up for what he believes and ask for extra gravy on his chicken fried steak. Which is exactly what I am doing.
I am asking my wife to cover my plate in white pepper gravy.
I have a long history with chicken fried steak. It goes back to when I was a child.
Chicken fried steak was a real treat in our household. We rarely ate it at home. And we hardly ever went out to eat, either. Eating out was too expensive, and my father was so cheap that he wouldn’t have given a nickel to see Jesus ride a bike.
If we ever did go out, I was only allowed to order ice water. No ice.
Until one fateful Saturday morning, for an unknown reason, my father decided to take our family to a breakfast restaurant.
I can still remember it. The place was a dive. Vinyl seat cushions. Napkin dispensers. George Jones was singing overhead.
My father told me I could have anything I wanted on the menu. So I ordered chicken fried steak and asked the waitress for extra white gravy.
My father said, “You’ll never finish all that.”
I laughed at my critics.
The waitress brought me a steak that was about the size of Venezuela. I ate three bites and had to be carried out of the restaurant on a stretcher.
When I got older, I visited a themed restaurant outside Little Rock that claimed to have the world’s biggest chicken fried steak.
When I ordered, the perky waitress said, “You sure you wanna order that? You look kinda puny, kid.”
My steak arrived on a platter with a Bowie knife sticking from the top. And I could swear I heard George Jones singing overhead.
“Stand back,” I said. “This could get ugly.”
I ate so much steak that my ears rang and my feet swelled.
Before I left, the waitress said, “This ain’t none of my business, kid, but one word: Metamucil.”
So I don’t know what it is about chicken fried steak, but it is my favorite.
Growing up, I remember my aunt frying it in a skillet for breakfast on special occasions. Then, she’d drown my food in so much pepper gravy you couldn’t see the actual food.
Don’t even get me started on gravy.
I have a friend named Don who doesn’t eat gravy on anything. He hates wet food. Wherever we go to eat he tells the servers to “Hold the gravy, please.” And I cringe.
I feel sorry for people who don’t eat gravy. I can only assume these are the same kinds of people who eat store bought tomatoes and speed up in school zones.
There are too many kinds of gravy in the world not to try. Red-eye gravy, chicken gravy, cornmeal gravy, giblet gravy, ham gravy, chocolate gravy, turkey gravy, hamburger gravy, onion gravy, and liver gravy.
In South Carolina I tried shrimp gravy. In New Orleans; crawfish gravy. And once in San Antonio I was served five-alarm chili gravy that was so spicy it damaged the nerve endings in my tongue for six months.
There are the humble breakfast gravies. Sausage gravy, sawmill gravy, cream gravy, and milk gravy.
It bears mentioning, breakfast gravy is meant to be eaten atop homemade biscuits. Made-from-scratch gravy must never touch the godless aberrations that come from Pilsbury tubes.
I wouldn’t bring canned biscuits to a goldfish funeral.
And coffee gravy—sometimes known as red-eye gravy. My friend’s mother used to make this with leftover Folgers. The gravy was tan, with flecks of coffee grounds in it. This gravy is traditionally served on ham. In a pinch it can be used to garnish dry pork chops, or squirrel.
I haven’t even mentioned tomato gravy yet.
Tomato gravy is king. If you haven’t tasted real tomato gravy, it tastes exactly like George Jones and Tammy Wynette singing “Golden Rings.”
Good tomato gravy is hard to find, and it can work miracles. I have seen people without any hope for the future sop tomato gravy from a plate and instantly begin quoting from the book of Revelation.
Tomato gravy will do that to a man.
When I first got married, my wife used to make biscuits and tomato gravy every Saturday morning. Until one day, she noticed that my pants were too tight.
After a meeting with our doctor, she quit making biscuits and gravy for a few years. Pretty soon we were eating Shredded Wheat for breakfast and checking our blood pressure all the time.
But this morning, while I write to you, there is a smell in the air. A familiar one. It is coming from the kitchen.
“Come and get it,” says my wife.
I sprint toward the kitchen. My wife hands me a chicken fried steak the size of a grand piano. She tops it with gravy. And I ask for more.
And just when I didn’t think the day could get any better, somebody turns on a George Jones record.
Don’t forget what I said about canned biscuits.