Biscuits and Gravy

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Nothing is more comforting, savory, tasty and satisfying to eat for breakfast than biscuits and gravy.

Objectively, it’s just a pile of grease, starch and milk. But subjectively, ahh. That’s different!

I’ve had the combination of biscuits and gravy from friends, restaurants and family, and one conclusion I have come to is that it must be easier to make good gravy than good biscuits. The gravy is almost always ok, and sometimes quite excellent.

Just recently, while visiting my sister in Woodland Park, Colorado, we shared a plate of biscuits and gravy at the Donut Mill, a little bakery there. In preparing this dish, sometimes the cook breaks the biscuits up, sometimes they’re left whole. This place was a “slightly break ‘em up” method. The gravy was beautiful, covering the biscuits from all edges of the plate – perfect tannish-white liberally speckled with large flakes of black pepper. Small pieces of sausage hid in the creamy blanket, contributing to just the right amount of saltiness. The biscuit was only so-so. If I had eaten the biscuit separately from the gravy, I would have been disappointed in it. My gold standard in biscuits are my mother’s and my own. They should be tender and moist inside with a hard-to-describe chewy-crusty outside, which comes from being coated with butter or bacon grease and baked at a high temperature.

But this plate of biscuits and gravy, together, were just fine; we enjoyed them very much.
I began thinking about how simple and nice the combination was. One could add an egg; that would be a tasty addition. A few sausages would match well. You could even lay some fried apples at the edge of the plate and enjoy it. But by adding an extra ingredient, something is lost from the perfect pairing of the original biscuits and gravy.

I think of that perfect pairing when I consider an Old-Time banjo and fiddle combination. Together, playing the old tunes, they create such a sweet, primitive music, almost achingly nostalgic. Sometimes either the fiddle or banjo is just “ok,” but together, they are beautiful. Often, folks will add a guitar to the duet, a bass, or maybe a mandolin. And just like a pretty little sunny-side up egg keeping the biscuits and gravy company, it sounds nice, sometimes making the tune a little richer, fuller. But if you appreciate true Old-Time music, you might be one to recognize that the perfect simplicity of the original duet is no longer there.

So go ahead and enjoy a full course of instruments at an Old-Time music jam. It can be loud, fun, and make you want to dance. But then, step aside, notice the two guys in the corner and take time to appreciate and understand the beauty of just the fiddle and the banjo.


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