Our Thanksgiving op-eds have been coated in butter and dunked in a barrel of boiling oil. Now our house is on fire. But nothing, nothing will convince us otherwise. So pass the alcoholic gravy — here are our deep-fried holiday takes.
If you’re not among the 38 percent of Americans planning a Thanksgiving feast with more than 10 friends and family members — and if you are, it’s not too late to cancel! — you know the basic traditions are out the window this year. More freedom to spout your political takes, none of that weird yam casserole your aunt always brings, minimal travel arrangements and yeah, pajamas are fine to wear at the table. Can’t go wrong, baby.
In that spirit of freedom, this Thanksgiving may also pose an opportunity for experimentation in the kitchen. Leave the skins on your mashed potatoes; I swear they’re better that way. Maybe forget the turkey altogether, since people enjoy complaining about it more than they like eating it. Or, hell, go entirely vegetarian.
But the element that ties the holiday dinner together, now as always, is an old standby that feels almost unchangeable in its simple ingredients and presentation: gravy.
Gravy is, of course, the not-so-secret star of the show. I remember the year we ran short — my family almost came to blows. You literally cannot have enough of this savory elixir on the table, as it elevates any food it touches, rescuing some dishes from pariah status. The masters of the condiment have their secret or standby recipes, and there seems to be little room for improvisation in the field.
Well, the time has come.
What I propose is less radical than inevitable, and I’m sure that with trial and error, we’d eventually strike a formula as popular as “classic” gravy itself. I ask you: Where is the alcoholic Thanksgiving gravy? I want gravy that makes me feel like the Mayflower with three sheets to the wind.
Don’t tell me it’s not possible. This is something we’ve been dancing around for years — bourbon gravy is already a popular variation, and the bespoke “gravy shot” makes the regular brown sauce a delicious mixer for whiskey, brandy or cognac. Getting wasted on gravy is a dream firmly within our grasp; the challenge is concocting the ideal booze-gravy to pour on your stuffing and green beans. At our disposal is all the liquor science behind Bloody Marys and broth-based beverages like the “Pho-King Champ.” There are a lot of things you can’t fix about Thanksgiving. Lack of high-ABV gravy is not one of them. Gather a brain trust from the best brewers and distillers. Get to work.
For millions of Americans, the fourth Thursday of each November is as much a drinking occasion as a culinary bonanza. You work your way through a cooler of beers, open a few bottles of wine with the meal. All that liquid (while a blessing for relatives who socialize once or twice per annum) takes up valuable space in the digestive tract, which is better reserved for second and third plates of food, not to mention dessert. What if alcoholic gravy — strong enough to produce a buzz yet still a singular, lip-smacking flavor lubricating your meat, starch and vegetables — helped you achieve a better equilibrium? More wasted with each forkful, but a fraction of the added bloat that comes with finishing off a six-pack. The difference would be nothing short of life-changing.
It’s a great idea, if I say so myself. Maybe too great for an idiot like me to cook up by myself. Call me a conspiracy-peddler, but I suspect that alcoholic gravy was developed and perfected — perhaps even sold in cans — around the height of the Cold War, in the 1950s and 1960s. According to popular depictions of (and media from) that era, adults were doing everything they could to remain blackout hammered 24/7; it is inconceivable to me that the decades of Spam-and-Jello salads did not likewise deliver 80-proof gravy for eternally soused mid-century suburban parents. I bet their Boomer kids will confirm.
The result, however, must have been Thanksgiving parties so wild and decadent that nobody remembered them. Gradually, we forgot the glories of booze-infused gravy and went back to indulging our chemical dependencies in distinct forms — beer, wine and cocktails for the alcohol, and gravy for the salt and fat. Separation of drink and food.
We need to go back. For gravy is the unifier of Thanksgiving, and no part of the holiday should exist apart from its luxuriant taste. In 2020, a year that has cost us so much, devote a few hours that you’d otherwise spend on a side you’ve cooked a million times to cracking the code of perfect alcoholic gravy. Then, whenever it’s safe to do Thanksgiving with a couple dozen guests again, you’ll really get to wow them.