IT IS DECEMBER, SO Australians cannot escape bushfires, workplace lethargy, and Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy. Even for a nation of authoritarians and cop lovers, it’s notable how many of the country’s most beloved cultural touchstones involve someone going to jail, or refusing to. If Banjo Paterson’s swagman had actually got to cook and eat the sheep he stole, I like to think he’d have roasted it and retained the fats somehow.

Kelly’s song is that of a man who’s ‘really screwed up this time’, and true to form, his recipe for gravy is frankly not very good:

Just add flour, salt, a little red wine
And don’t forget a dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness and that extra tang

What’s missing here? Gravy needs oils and/or fats. That’s the whole point of it, there’s no other function to it. Roast a chicken in a pan, and when it’s done, retain the oil and chicken fat rendered down from the cooking. Add flour, and simmer to cook it. This is an emulsion, so the quantities matter; there has to be enough flour in proportion so as not to leave oil, and not too much so as to have floury chunks. Don’t let it burn, keep stirring it across the surface. Add liquid, stock or water, wine if you want to. Once you’ve added water there’s no going back to mixing fats and flours, you needed to have got the proportions you wanted before you emulsified. If you want it sweet, like Kelly’s narrator, go ahead, but de gustibus non est disputandum, you’re wrong.

Gravy from roast meat is one of the cultural inheritances of pre-WWII, pre-mass migration White Australia, and it is what it is; a peculiarity that people who like it can neither explain nor justify. Though it’s the same technique, it’s emphatically not in the French bourgeois culinary tradition of making sauces to complement dishes, it’s simply a way of eliminating waste from cooking, and to exact the maximum of caloric sustenance from the whole piece of cooked meat. Older generations used dripping (literally, the drips of unpurified fat and cooked meat congealed in the pan or tray after cooking) in preference to butter on bread. Waste not want not.

And then, because carnivores in conscience should aim to use the whole animal to the full extent, make stock for the next gravy.



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dylan · 9 December 2019, 16:04 · #

Dripping and damper, yum

I guess too, that had he survived, the Swaggie would have joined The Bloke in settling down and selling war bonds, perhaps issuing joint communiques with Ginger Mick from the front

I know the Bloke and Ginger Mick didn’t go to jail, but try “stoushin’ Johns . . . in Little Lon.” these days & avoiding it.

Honourable mention for Four Walls, Cold Chisel


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