If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to deflect attention from the touchy subject of politics in the United Kingdom; it is gravy. Like our politics, it’s given to various schools of thought. While being well-meaning many of which are misinformed and serve as a root cause of my blistering resentment of others. Being from the North, I like mine to be served as a slick of abstract blackness thick enough that no light could possibly penetrate it. A kind of proto-sauce that you could chisel a few words into and it would double as an edible headstone. “Here lies Jake O’Brien Murphy, crushed under the weight of his own plate”. Of course, you’re likely to object to what I have written and you have every right to disagree. Just remember that this is a rhetoric medium, there’s literally nothing you can say in way of a comeback and by reading on you’re essentially walking chin first into swinging insults. Still with me? Good effort, dickhead.
Thin gravy, along with a plateless 1990s Volvo estate and a blood-encrusted crowbar, is a telltale sign you’re in the company of a violent psychopath. What brings someone put such a perverse idea into motion? “I’ve heard of gravy, but I’d prefer it without any of the niggling specifics of texture, flavour or basic human enjoyment.” Like peering through a yellowed office window at a cup of anaemic brown liquid being wrung out of an ashtray after a piss storm. The only reason for this kind of, I can’t bring myself to call it the g-word, liquid - thing - is to answer the question “I hate myself and I find this wad of pink sensory tissue inside my mouth a troublesome inconvenience. What can I add to make this plate of food simultaneously worse and wet?”. I’ve written at length about disappointment and being somewhat of an expert on the subject by virtue of my own deficiencies as a man, lover and writer I can say with certainty that thin gravy supersedes all other disappointment. It would cause all of your deepest, darkest disappointments to blush and hide in the bathroom stall at the reunion party. It seems to be people of a Southern extraction that make a case for it. Remember though that they also play a game called Shinty in which the object is to kick each other in the shins until someone gets their shins kicked in, marry their cousins and chase cheese down steep bits of scenery. What they’re arguing for I can’t quite say, any time the subject is broached I become suddenly and acutely aware of the blood that is rushing through my eardrums as I resist the animal temptation to drive my palm through my own face.
The entry for gravy in the Oxford Companion for Food the only book, I imagine, with a worse readership than this column says this “in the British Isles and areas culturally influenced by them, is … well, gravy, a term fully comprehensible to those who use it, but something of a mystery in the rest of the world.” I love that it perfectly describes the altogether otherness of gravy. One thing that irritates me more than the thin stuff *spits on the floor*, is people who think gravy can be passed through some continental chiffon and made more cosmopolitan by being called a jus or a reduction. Put a wig on a dog and it’s just a dog in the wig. Do you want to make that puddle of brown seem more appealing to people? Then just let them try it for what it is. Gravy by its very nature is an ugly thing, changing its documentation and giving it a Franco-face lift isn’t going to suddenly turn it pastel coloured and effervescent. It’s halfway between food and the idea of it all, it’s all the fiddly, scrappy bits coalesced and poured lovingly into a Yorkshire pudding. In essence, it is the essence. In Italy, they have “fare la Scarpetta” which roughly translates making the little shoe. It’s that little bit of bread you would use to mop up the last bits of sauce. If they had gravy in Italy, they’d wear bigger shoes.