Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming one of my favorite days of the year. I admit that while I am a big fan of being thankful and all that, the main reason is slightly less altruistic. I love Thanksgiving because it is a fantastic excuse to make a huge meal and feed people. There are few other occasions throughout the year where I get to brine a turkey, a kind of kitchen wizardry that I have fallen madly in love with, make stuffing and mashed potatoes, cook up cranberry sauce from scratch, and bust out with as many pies as possible.

I started making Thanksgiving dinner all myself about 5 years ago, and the first one was solely for me and my housemate at the time, Dr. Slappy. A bunch of other people were suppose to come, but they changed their minds after saying they’d come and decided to go elsewhere. I made the big dinner anyway, and Dr. Slappy was appropriately appreciative. We had a ton of leftovers. The next year, I invited a bunch of people again, but it ended up being just me. I brined the turkey for the first time that year with a Pom pomegranate juice recipe, and it was pink. It was fantastically delicious, enormous pink turkey and it was all mine. Lots of leftovers then, too. The next year I went on a cruise with friends, and the year after that I had Thanksgiving with BWB’s family for the first time.

Last year was the first Thanksgiving we had in our own house, and of course our first year as a married couple. We do “orphans Thanksgiving” and invite anybody we know who doesn’t have plans to be elsewhere. Both last year and this year we have had three people besides ourselves, and they usually bring sides and desserts for us as well. I love having people in the house, and I love cooking all day to feed them.

Mostly, my food turns out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I’ve got the turkey cooking thing down at this point I think, and while I pick up a few tricks every year (Daisy‘s hint on making the potatoes ahead of time, for example), I feel pretty comfortable banging out Thanksgiving all on my own if necessary. For just me, or for 6 people, or probably more than that based on our leftover quantities, I’ve got it covered.

Except for one thing.

Gravy.

I don’t really remember gravy from childhood, but I’m not entirely sure if this was because my mother didn’t make it or if I just didn’t care much for it. One way or another, while I have copiously paid attention to her methods (and madness) over the years for just about everything else, gravy has escaped my skill set.

I remember having Thanksgiving with my then-boyfriend’s family in college, and being fascinated at how his aunt and grandmother took flour and a whisk and the pan drippings and poof, it was gravy. I watched, and I tried to learn, but alas, the magic seemed beyond me. Since then, I’ve read instructions and watched videos. I’ve gone to the guru, Alton Brown, and let him explain the science of the stuff. I have given it my best shot, but gravy, it just doesn’t like me.

Let me assure you, dear readers, I can make a roux. I’ve done it for plenty of other dishes. I know the theory of the fat and the flour, and I have accomplished it plenty of other times in other settings. But gravy, oh boy gravy just eludes me. That first year with Dr. Slappy, I made gravy-flavored paste. It tasted good, if one was adventurous enough to spread (yes, spread) it on one’s turkey or mashed potatoes. The next year, with the pink turkey, I am pretty sure I didn’t even bother trying because it was just me.

Last year, though, I was determined that there would be gravy on that table for everyone. Last year, I was doing my darnedest to make gravy, with the whisk and the pan and the stirring it around all that, and it was decidedly not… working. My friend B arrived to find me in this state, whisking and glaring and “maybe more flour?”, and she gently offered to help. My friend B, the vegetarian, the one who hasn’t eaten meat in goodness knows how long, stood at my stove and made a beautiful gravy. I watched, and tried to learn. I tried, I really did.

Except fast-forward to this year, and I there I was again, standing at my stove, whisk in hand, having followed the directions on the gravy-concentrate packet that came with the turkey — yes, I was resorting to cheating and not ashamed of it — and I still had a separated, lumpy, bizarre-looking substance in that pan. Complete gravy fail. Then B and my other friend H arrived. “I broke it,” I told them, and they swooped into action with murmured encouragement, telling me I hadn’t broken it, it just needed some, um, fixing. Which, I might point out, is what one generally does when things are broken, but they were very kind. This year, H took over at the stove, and turned out a delicious sauce for all of our gravy-requiring needs.

There is a part of me which would like to declare gravy from a brined turkey “too salty” and use that as an excuse to not mess with the stuff from here out, but the fact is that I like the overly salty grey-brown stuff, and besides, I’m way too stubborn to just give up like that. I think, too, that there’s something very Thanksgiving-ish about my gravy quandry. A reminder that sometimes we can’t do things alone. Sometimes we need good friends to come around and help us out, to fix the stuff that, while not completely necessary, sure makes things better.

I know what it’s like to make Thanksgiving dinner just for myself, and it’s fine. The food is good and I can enjoy my table for one. But when there are other people there, bringing food, warmth, laughter, and love to the table? Well. You know what that is. It’s gravy.

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