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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)

TITLE: Jailhouse Gravy and Snake Cakes
By dub W


This morning I made jailhouse gravy and toast for my grandkids’ breakfast. No, we aren’t so poor we can’t afford a real meal, but I was just hungry for some pan food, and thought they might enjoy it too. Well, I was partly correct. One of them loved it, the other one turned up her nose.

Jailhouse gravy comes from an old cowboy tradition of a prisoner taking a little animal fat, some flour, and his coffee cream, or goat’s milk, then combining the ingredients in a mason jar and shaking until the mixture got muddy. If he had a piece of jerky or similar he might add it to the combination. My version was a little less rustic.

We were short on anything to make grease other than lunch meat. So, I chopped up a piece of ham, added it to vegetable oil and butter, followed by flour and presto I had a roux. For the non cooks, a roux, pronounced ‘roo’, is basically hot oil and flour.

Next, I poured in milk and started stirring. Minutes later I had my version of jailhouse gravy – albeit only popular in part of the household. I poured the mixture over toast – and there I had a hobo breakfast treat. After fixing a separate breakfast for my granddaughter I retreated to my bedroom for Bible study.

Jacob asked for tasty food before he died (Gen. 27:4 KJV); the Lord spoke to Samuel and told him, “And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers” (1 Sam. 8:13 KJV). Admittedly, the confectionaries of Samuel’s day were more of perfumers than candy makers. All in all, we know that cooking is honorable in God’s view, at least in the limited words we are allowed to interpret.

So, what does God have to do with gravy on toast? Absolutely nothing if a person tries to find jailhouse gravy in the Holy text; but, absolutely everything if that same person applies the act of Christian love when preparing the meal.

My grandmother weighed nearly 300 pounds. But, she rarely sat at the dinner table. Though nearly deaf and blind, she managed to cook for farm workers and family every day, but she did it by taste, and always with a song and prayer on her lips. Often other female members of the family would join her in this joyous reunion. The food was magical - main courses, pies and cakes, and ice cold sweet tea. Breakfasts were celebrations of morning. With a bucket of lard sitting on the stove she made biscuits and breads and always plenty of gravy. If she had cooked for Jacob he might have refused to die.

Today’s contrast is, of course, fast food. The doctors blasted my grandmother’s cooking as unhealthy; but, what are the franchises doing to us? Even diet plan after diet plan has been found to be a silent killer.

Here is my opinion – most of my family, one generation up, lived to be in their 80s and 90s, eating my grandmother’s cooking. One difference – everyone worked hard; the other difference – my grandmother was driven by the Lord. She taught me how to cook, lessons I will never forget, especially the part that says, “start with a prayer.”

My babysitting duties are nearly over, tomorrow I return to my own home; however, tomorrow morning I am making snake cakes for breakfast. The grandkids love’m. Funny what a little food coloring in the pancake batter will do; chocolate chips for eyes. My daughter-n-law will probably frown, at least until I put a snake cake or two on her plate. Oh, I make my pancakes from flour, baking powder, and butter, I like the flavor better than a box mix and definitely better than the frozen pancakes my daughter-n-law keeps in the freezer.

No jailhouse gravy tomorrow, only made from scratch snake cakes. Nobody will know, and although the kids will say their prayers at the table, the Lord and I will have already had a morning chat. Thanks grandma.

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This article has been read 1178 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/11/07
Great title, and a really engaging, homey voice.

Toward the end, this started to wander a bit off-course, but it ended back on track. I enjoyed this a great deal. And by the way, "jailhouse gravy" sounds wonderful to me!
Dolores Stohler01/11/07
Loved your story and your title, too. Can't ever remember reading that verse in Samuel so going to look it up. Great application!
Rhonda Clark01/11/07
I love this article, and the title is very catching. I know what you mean about making pancakes from scratch. I enjoyed your thoughts.
Joanne Sher 01/12/07
Love the voice! The title definitely got my attention, and the story kept it! Great application too!
Leigh MacKelvey01/12/07
My mama used to make snake biscuits! Your entry brought back nice memories and the descriptions pur me back in time just a little!
Chrissi Dunn01/14/07
It's true - food made from scratch tastes so much nicer than ready meals! This was a great devotional, about how God recognises the importance of cooking. Haven't ever heard of 'Jailhouse Gravy' or 'Snake Cakes' (Perhaps that's to do with living in the U.K.), but they sound really good!
Donna Powers 01/14/07
An absloutely wonderful title and it made me curious about how each of these things taste. Great job!
Betty Castleberry01/15/07
This is a nice, comfortable read, the kind that makes you want to curl up in front of yoru fireplace. Love the title, too.
janet rubin01/16/07
I enjoyed reading this one. You have a great story-telling voice. My little girls love it when I make italian bread sticks from scratch. They call them bread snakes:) I make teddy bear pancakes- round head, two little round ears, chocolate chip eyes...
Of course my mini-van does its share of McDonald's drive thru's too...
Dennis Fletcher01/17/07
Awesome! Will you come and cook for me, just once?
My wife is also an excellent cook, making things that make my mouth water, and she does it for the Lord.
Jen Davis01/17/07
I can appreciate your statement that “Breakfasts were celebrations of morning.” We love good breakfasts made from scratch around our house too. A very enjoyable read and a delightful glimpse into another’s kitchen and family heritage.
Sara Harricharan 01/17/07
Cute title-fits the story just right! I like the character of the grandmother, the story had a sort of 'cozy' feel to it, making me want to read it again. Very good!
Thanks for commenting on "Cookies and Letters"
Sandra Petersen 01/17/07
Dub, I've always heard my Dad, who was a WWII army vet and made the best gravy I ever tasted, refer to jailhouse gravy as "**** on a shingle". I always loved it regardless of the name.

I was lazy this week and only got to your article via the message board (didn't look at all the levels). I didn't notice your title til now. It is an eye-catching title.

Good essay on the difference between the diets and habits of our forbears and us.

We make quite a few 'scratch' items here, including pancakes. Nothing compares. Thanks for bringing me back to some precious memories.
Marty Wellington 01/17/07
Thoroughly enjoyed the homey feel of this piece. The title caught my eye for sure earlier in the week and I thought to myself, "this sounds like Dub." Guess I was right. Congratulations on an enjoyable article.
Ruth Neilson01/17/07
both jailhouse gravy and snake cakes sound wonderful. I do agree with the review that you tended to wonder off topic about midway through, but you came back. Other than that, I think that is was very nicely wrote.
Kathie Thomas01/17/07
Glad you explained what jailhouse gravy and snakecakes are - had never heard of them. Great story for giving insight to how life is lived in another part of the world (to me!). Thanks.
Pat Guy 01/17/07
Ahhh ... Dub, if we could only go back to the good old days of bacon grease,lard and butter. (and hard physical labor) They made everything taste and turn out better.

Poignant and entertaining, and I loved getting to know your family.

No surprise on the writing. You always have that one nailed down.

Sally Hanan01/17/07
If she had cooked for Jacob he might have refused to die. Too funny! I really enjoyed this, and loved the Scriptural aids :)
Catrina Bradley 01/17/07
I've read about people making roux, I didn't realize that my mom did it for every meal. She taught all of her daughters to cook from scratch like she did. Wonderful job, great feel to this essay. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for sharing.