“Come and get it,” says my wife.

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.”

“I’m sure.”

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.


  1. Estelle - July 18, 2019 7:24 am

    It is a shame that theyMyhe south runs on gra tell you chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes covered in gravy is bad you you. Well I’m 77 yrs old and I have eaten the steak and fried chicken all my life. Something so good can’t be all bad. My sons would leave an open spot on his plate after all the vegetables were passed around. That spot was for his gravy on his gravy. The south runs on good homemade gravy.

  2. Sandi. - July 18, 2019 8:16 am

    Sean, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and just love the way you word things. Will definitely think of you the next time I eat chicken fried steak with white pepper gravy!
    But what is tomato gravy? Tell us readers how to make it, please.

  3. Lucretia - July 18, 2019 8:44 am

    The South is gravy! It has kept many a large family fed when times were tough the gravy made it seem like a banquet. Thank you for the resurfacing of my childhood when all southern tables had boats and bowls of gravy breakfast, dinner, and supper. Tomato was the pinnacle when you ate Sunday dinner with the ole maid King Sisters who could come home from church, dress out a couple of chickens from the yard and set a feast of homemade everything. Thank you, Sean for sharing your wonderful talents.

  4. GaryD - July 18, 2019 9:48 am

    I love a good home-made biscuit but I love canned biscuits, too. I’ve never heard of tomato gravy but if it’s got tomatoes in it I wouldn’t want to taste it either ! The only good tomato is what comes out of a Heinz bottle when you squeeze it.?

  5. Naomi - July 18, 2019 10:18 am

    My husband loves chicken fried steak and gravy; he likes gravy on everything but I don’t. The only gravy that I like is turkey grave, usually at Thanksgiving, which I put on cornbread Dressing. I bet you have never heard of chocolate gravy. We went on a cruise to the Panama Canal a few years ago and one of our dinners, they had a Mexican dish with chocolate gravy. There were 4 of us and we didn’t believe our waitress who told us how good it was so we ordered it anyway even though we were skeptical and it was delicious. By the way, my husband eats a lot of gravy and everything doctors tell you not to eat. He is 88 years old and has low cholesterol and low blood pressure. I, on the other hand try to eat a healthier died but I have high cholesterol and high blood pressure; it doesn’t make any sense to me.

  6. Casey Henry - July 18, 2019 10:35 am

    I once bought a whole cookbook just because it had a recipe for tomato gravy in it. I ate it one shining time in my life, sitting around the table with, I kid you not, Johnny and June Carter Cash, among others, at the Carter Family homeplace in Hiltons, Va. A culinary, and cultural highlight of my life!

  7. Elizabeth - July 18, 2019 10:55 am


    Seems like a very common recipe. It’s almost tomatoe season in east Tennessee!!!

    • Janet Mary Lee - July 18, 2019 3:22 pm

      Sean’s readers are the best!! Elizabeth, that is nice of you to post the recipe!!! Our tomatoes are burning up in Al!!

    • Sandi. - July 18, 2019 6:33 pm

      Elizabeth, bless your heart for giving us the recipe link to tomato gravy. Just looking at the photos made me want to taste some right now! It seems like an easy recipe, and I look forward to trying it. Thanks so much!

  8. Gloria - July 18, 2019 11:52 am

    Sean, our mother grew up in Ponce de Leon. She could make the best tomato gravy and biscuits, served with bacon and cane syrup on the side. Now my son makes the tomato gravy and everyone in the family comes for supper…it’s about time for another gathering! But.. you didn’t mention two gravies that our grandmother would make.. potato gravy and egg gravy. She said that when you had a family to feed and only had a couple of eggs, then supper would consist of egg gravy and biscuits. I’m sure that her pure Southern Alabama roots influenced her cooking. Her grandchildren are passing those memories and recipes on down to our children and grandchildren.

  9. Joe Patterson - July 18, 2019 12:29 pm


  10. Karen Davis - July 18, 2019 1:30 pm

    Love it! You do not look old enough to know all this! I do enjoy reading your column every day. It starts my day out with a smile. (Loving the book, too!!!). Cup

  11. Connie Havard Ryland - July 18, 2019 1:31 pm

    Tomato gravy is my personal favorite but I love it all. And of course, homemade biscuits have to be served with it. Canned biscuits are an abomination but canned gravy is worse. I know people who actually buy that stuff! I can’t imagine that, when gravy is so easy to make. I won’t say that biscuits are easy, but I’ve been making them well over 50 years and they are pretty good. I taught my granddaughter but my other kids are not quite as adept at biscuits, although they are all good cooks. Thanks. Now I’m hungry. Love and hugs.

  12. Shelton A. - July 18, 2019 1:33 pm

    You are the encyclopedia of gravy. Your knowledge surpasses all others. I’m not a gravy man. Hilarious!

  13. jwalt14 - July 18, 2019 1:47 pm

    Mr. Dietrich, I don’t believe anyone could have written anything better about gravy. This took me back to my grandparents kitchen on Saturday mornings. Mamaw was 5’0″ and Papaw was 6’3″. They always looked so cute standing next to each other in their tee-tiny kitchen. While I was reading, I could see Mamaw’s little hands shaping her biscuits and Papaw frying bacon and sausage in his cast iron skillet . After he was done frying everything, he would begin his gravy. I’ve been cooking all my life and I still can’t make my biscuits or gravy taste anywhere near like theirs. Maybe they had “southern sorcery” in their hands?

  14. Ken Dunn - July 18, 2019 2:03 pm

    In my book Jamie is a QUEEN ! Any woman who can fix chicken fried steak, tomato gravy, and homemade cathead biscuits can rule the world. In the South if restaurants would learn to serve chicken fried steak, tomato gravy, and homemade cathead biscuits they would find out we like that better than oatmeal, yogurt, and frozen biscuits. Tomato gravy is even better if made with fresh Slocomb tomatoes. You are one blessed man to be teamed up with Jamie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Eddy - July 18, 2019 2:24 pm

    YAY SEAN!! Glad to finally hear that someone loves gravy as much as me! Bring it and SOP ON, BROTHER!!

  16. That's jack - July 18, 2019 2:39 pm

    I’ve sopped gravy since 1939. I think mama fed it to me starting at 3 months. LOL But you missed (and how I do not know, you named a couple gravies I ain’t heard of) HOOVER GRAVY or mama called it water gravy, produced during the depression, fatback grease, water salt and flour and mama could make it taste as good as white gravy with pepper. Just sayin’ you done good on the gravies, missing one out of a thousand ain’t bad. 😉
    Now in Deland once, I had meatloaf with gravy, the first time in my 80 years I did not finish and sop the gravy!
    But I do love me some steak and gravy!
    From PA,
    Sherry & jack

  17. Betty - July 18, 2019 2:51 pm

    Sean, I’m crushed. I eat store bought tomatoes but would NEVER speed in a school zone!

  18. David Dunn - July 18, 2019 3:13 pm

    Sean, another gravy story. I love hamburger steak with frys and i always have them cover the frys with that brown gravy. I am sure you know the brown gravy i am talking about. I had a friend who always told the waitress to give him some of that brown gravy they had out back in the 55 gallon drum and give him an extra squirt. He has passed but there will be Wally’s memory with every bite of the 55 gallon gravy.
    David Dunn
    Valparaiso “Valp”

  19. Janet Mary Lee - July 18, 2019 3:19 pm

    I am so with you, Sean!! Unfortunately I look like I eat a bunch of biscuits and gravy!! But I would rather die a little early than miss out on some of the South’s best foods!! I never heard of cornmeal gravy..Hoping a reader has a recipe!! Long live country fried steak and lots of gravy!! Bless you Jamie!!

  20. Linda Moon - July 18, 2019 3:51 pm

    Breakfast restaurants and George Jones music…two good ingredients. Tonight I’m having chicken and gravy with the one who introduced me to George Jones’ music. I haven’t tried tomato gravy, but if it tastes like a Jones & Wynette song, I’ll give it a try. I agree with and will remember what you said about canned biscuits. Sadly, Grandma is no longer with us, and neither are her homemade biscuits. They were both loved! May they rest in peace.

  21. Kathy White - July 18, 2019 5:13 pm

    Gravy…who knew that could be such an interesting topic? But it was coming from the writer Sean. I don’t know if you read all the comments Sean, but I do. Many of the comments add to the richness of your writing by people sharing their experiences. Thank you for providing an opportunity for your readers to share their experiences and their own stories. Many writers don’t.

  22. Miss Jennie - July 18, 2019 8:10 pm

    My late husband loved, loved chicken fried steak and cream gravy. He used to tell people he married me because I made the best gravy ever. For his birthdays he didn’t want to go out for dinner, he wanted homemade chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy with fresh green beans, biscuits and chocolate cake from scratch. It was a treat for the whole family since we tried to eat “healthy” most of the time. After he passed at age 37, my teenaged kids wanted this meal on his birthday as a special memory to him. It helped in our grieving and was an awesome way to rejoice in his life every year. It gave us hope that we’d be ok. So I proclaim gravy as love!

  23. Dewey Fleetwood - July 18, 2019 10:40 pm

    Enjoyed this article about gravy, I was in Arkansas many moons ago and they had chocolate gravy with their biscuits. When I was about 8 or 9 I went fishing with some friends (bank fishing for bream and whatever). We caught a nice mess and his mama pulled out the old iron skillet and fried ’em up in all their corn meal glory. She then made tomatoe gravy in the drizzilings left in that old iron skillet. I have traveled the world and ate in some of the finer eating places, but NOTHING has touched my taste buds like that fish drizziling tomatoe gravy, hot biscuits and fried bream.

  24. Richard Douglas - July 19, 2019 5:20 pm

    How is “white pepper gravy” unlike watered down bread dough, even with pepper? Like that “sawmill” gravy-goo, I’m sure it must be better. What was not mentioned was real gravy, i.e., dark browned roux base Cajun gravy. In browning the roux, the flour takes on a sweet aroma and wonderful flavor not even imagined in just flour with whatever is added and mixed with. I guarantee!

  25. Bill T - July 19, 2019 11:55 pm

    If anybody tells you biscuits and gravy is not a meal, walk away. You don’t need that kind of negativity.

  26. Cindy Starling - July 26, 2019 1:34 am

    Lawd have Mercy…..now I know without a doubt….you are southern to the core! Love tomato gravy! Wish I could post a picture for the non-southerners.


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