Bologna Gravy

I was reminded by a lady in the checkout lane of Kroger’s yesterday of something that happened to me when I was fresh out of high school. She was complaining about the higher prices of groceries ( and gas) and how did anyone expect her to take care of her family?
 I had just moved to a new town right after high school graduation and was smitten by a young man that I worked  with. He was very handsome and those good looks did not go unnoticed by all of the ladies, old and young, that he came into contact with.. He was polite, a little bit shy, and  ever-so-polite. After taking our breaks together and chatting at every opportunity that we could grasp for several weeks, we decided to take a Sunday drive and enjoy each other’s company. He picked me up in a rusted 1960-something pick-up truck that made its arrival obvious from a block or two down the street. He made no apologies for it‘s appearance or sound, and his smile was ear to ear as he opened the squeaky door and helped
 me climb in.  When we began our ride he explained that we needed to stop by his house to pick something up that he had forgotten, and it was then that I was introduced to his mom and dad and four  brothers. Before we left his mother invited me back, after our ride, for supper. He had kind of a bewildered look on his face when I said, “ sure”, and appeared to be trying to talk his mom out of it. However ,her courtesy and firmness prevailed and we found ourselves back at his place right before six.
The table was set for eight with Melmac plates and  pink, blue and purple Tupperware glasses. Sitting plainly in the center of the table was a big bowl of some type of very steaming hot gravy and beside it was a plate over flowing with slices of bread . Following suit, as I watched the others around me, I tore up a pieces of white bread and covered it with the gravy. Upon tasting it, I knew that I had never had gravy like this. It was a white gravy with pepper and chunks of a dark colored meat throughout. The taste was good, but unrecognizable. The conversation flowed easily around the table and we heard about his younger brothers’ plans for their evening fishing trip, his mom’s efforts at keeping clothes on the line in the wind, and a  few stories we added about our work at the fast food drive in.  His father just sat, ate, and listened to it all.
“ This gravy is really good,” I told her.
“ Ah, it’s just bologna gravy,” she said, “ but it sticks to your ribs and the boys do like it.”
She explained how you just cut the bologna up into little pieces and let brown in bacon drippings with flour, and then add salt , pepper and milk. I had never heard of bologna gravy before.  But I knew it was tasty, eased my appetite, and was offered in kindness.
I dated this boy for several months and found this to be one of the nicest, hardest working families I had ever met. I learned that there were many nights of “ bologna gravy” and endless entertainment consisting mostly of  baseball games in the back yard, but happiness prevailed and needs were met.
Yes, grocery prices have gone up. But there are things you can do. Before shopping, make a menu for the week. Then make your grocery list according to the things that are on sale that week and the things you already have in your pantry This will allow you to utilize everything that you have purchased. Also I try to plan one or two meals from things I already have sitting in my fridge or freezer. If I buy chicken to fry, I pull the meat off of  the pieces that were not eaten and make chicken and noodles later in the week. If I buy tomatoes,  I have a salad for a side dish one evening, BLT’s the next day for lunch. Make mashed potatoes one evening, and  use the leftovers to mix with onion and bread crumbs to make potato patties the next evening.
Buy a bag of carrots every week. Put them in soup, roast whole with olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of sugar as a side, grate them for cole slaw, or cut in little “sticks” and put 4 or 5 on a plate (  with a spoon full of ranch dressing as a side.( your children will actually love this!)
Use coupons. That’s why they make them. Only use them on things that your family likes. What good is a 75-cents- off coupon for a frozen dinner, if it won’t feed your family and you don’t like sea weed and crab?
Be inventive. Call it culinary experimentation on a budget. Quit whining. Don’t tell anyone your plan. Just do it!
Make some bologna gravy.  After all, it sticks to your ribs and the boys do like it.

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