I have always thought of the topping we’re most used to putting on pasta as sauce; generically spaghetti sauce, though we might differentiate between marinara and meat sauce. During the early 80s, when I was living in Playa del Rey, CA I recall a friend from Boston who referred to it as gravy. I had never heard that term used before and I was intrigued.
Never thought about it too much, but every once in a while I would wonder what it was all about. Gravy or sauce. Now I’ve spent my fair share of time in the kitchen and I know my way around, but I’m hardly a trained chef or a connoisseur. I’m just someone who enjoys eating and knows how to have fun cooking many of the things I like to eat.
Recently, I decided to “do my own research” and have discovered there is no simple answer to the question. Suffice it to say, for the most part gravy is used to refer to a thickened liquid made from the drippings of cooked meat or vegetables, while sauce is made separately from the item it is poured over or served with. Gravies are usually served hot while sauces can be served either hot or cold.
It seems clear to me, however, there is a lot of overlap and wiggle room for classifying something as either a sauce or a gravy and, rather than present an entire treatise on it, I’m going to share a couple of links to articles or sources I’ve encountered whilst doing the aforementioned “research”. I have to add that writing this has made caused me to crave a nice, steaming plate of pasta with my favorite kind of sauce/gravy poured all over it (that would be a meat sauce, say a nice bolognese.)
This page runs down a bit of the history of Italian immigrants to the U.S. and how their use of the words has evolved as they assimilated. The author points out how contentious the distinction has become. There’s quite a bit of fun history and speculation here.
This next page is from a source in India for hospitality workers to educate themselves. It’s got an interesting table setting forth the differences between gravies and sauces. It does not go into any arguments that exist regarding the difference; it’s just a decent source for understanding their components.
This blog post goes into what appears to be an ongoing argument over what to call the stuff that in Italy is referred to as sugo. The author also provides information about Italy and Italian-Americans, as well as recipes from salads to desserts.
Now I need to go out and find something to satisfy my craving for Italian. As a Ukrainian-Moldovan-German-Jewish-American, it’s not part of my heritage but my father’s best friend was a DeBiase and I spent a few of my early years eating homemade pasta (Rigatoni is my fave) or Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh from the oven Pizzelle (Anise cookies) most every Sunday when we lived near each other in Panorama City, CA.
Pineapple Chunks and Cottage Cheese – Lots of Juice
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley during the 1950s, a time many have suggested was idyllic here in the U.S. While we know that’s far from the truth, it was a time when we didn’t lock our doors and kids were allowed to stay out past dark; at least in Panorama City, where I lived. I traveled between our house and my friend’s house around the other side of our block not by sidewalk, but by cinder block fences and back yards.
It was, indeed, a much simpler time; if not in general, at least for a kid. Or so it seems to me. I don’t recall parents being worried about pedophiles or kidnapping or one of dozens of concerns expressed by today’s parents. In fact, most adults I came into contact with wanted the kids out of the house; the more frequently and longer the better. Kids were, after all, better seen than heard and the best way to keep them quiet was to send them away, preferably outdoors.
I got to thinking about this because yesterday I treated myself to one of my oldest comfort foods, which also reminded me of just how simple some things were. My comfort food – this particular one, that is – consists of two ingredients: Pineapple chunks and cottage cheese. I did change them a wee tad, due to the needs of my diet and the availability of items that didn’t exist back then. I used pineapple in its own juice instead of heavy syrup and low-fat cottage cheese instead of plain old whole milk cottage cheese.
Seasoned ground beef mixed with this stuff made for one happy boy back then.
I was in heaven and made three substantial servings out of the can of pineapple and the tub of cottage cheese I purchased. It’s gone, and I’m sated. I find myself now thinking about another comfort food – also pedestrian by current standards – that I enjoyed as I was growing up back then. My mother used to brown a pound of ground meat, seasoning it with lots of garlic powder, then mix it in with a can of Franco-American Spaghetti. I introduced my oldest daughter to it a while back and, in the process, managed to raise my blood pressure dramatically due to the very high salt content of the spaghetti.
Regardless, she loved it and I’ll probably do it again . . . I just won’t eat so much, or so I’m telling myself.
I have other favorite comfort foods – good, garlicky kosher pickles for one, but these two are biggies, and they really do bring me a modicum of comfort; perhaps especially because I can’t indulge in them very often any longer. I don’t mean to sound like a marketer here, fishing for comments, but I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite comfort foods. I’m sure there’s a huge variety.
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.