My aunt Susie Prater makes the very best country gravy. She uses the things that everyone who makes country gravy needs to use. The first and most important requirement is a large well-seasoned cast iron skillet.
Nothing else will produce the same good results as a 100 year old piece of iron with a heavy buildup of carbon. The next must important item is real bacon grease, in a pinch pure lard can be substituted, while good it will have less flavor than bacon grease. Flour should be bolted white, whole wheat will not do. Self-rising works just fine, use whatever brand you like but be aware that taste and texture varies between brands. Always use whole milk and even add a little cream, salt and pepper liberally, throw in some cathead biscuits, a cold glass of whole milk and a real breakfast ye shall have.
We have lost so many components of our traditions here in these hills as we have struggled to join into the modern world. Gravy for example, now more often than not, is made by adding water to a mix. Convenient yes, tasty no. It is important that as we mainstream as a people into a broader society we take the pains necessary to preserve the culture that is our own. The old ways and old traditions are our roots that anchor us together. We are many faces, together we are the face of Appalachia. Our roots run deep into the old countries of the Scotts and the Irish. We retain traces of the Kings English in our manner of speech. We still sing the old world Ballard’s and we still believe in right and wrong.
As I sit under the stars and ponder where Magoffin County’s future might lay it comes to me that it lays in her people. We are blessed beyond most with people of amazing abilities. People gifted in music and song. People who can compete on any level with anyone anywhere. Craftsmen, artists, dreamers and doers. Never under-estimate the importance of the dreamer as all things begin as someone’s dream. The Bible says in Mark, “And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth.” That is the answer to our future. We have to believe in ourselves and stop fighting among ourselves as a county. If we will all put our shoulder to the task of lifting our county up instead of tearing each other down and believe in our future that it will be good, time will make it so.
Our history matters, our heritage matters, our culture matters, we cannot live in the past but we can honor it. We can use it to guide us as we face an uncertain future. Just like the gravy our future depends on what we put in to it. The question is what do we do now, how will we do it, and why.
I have loved the neon lights of the city but have come to understand that my heart belongs to these hills. This sentiment was greatly reinforced this afternoon when I lost a large load of sheetrock and plywood off my truck. Before I got my door open I looked and I saw a man had already started to reload my truck. By the time I got to him others had joined in making short work of reloading my heavy load. I don’t know who any of them were but if any of them happen to read this I thank them for their kindness.