Traditions, Christmas or otherwise, are not always planned. So, after years of celebrating an event in a particular fashion we may pause to wonder how the tradition was born.
Such is the case with our family’s traditional Christmas breakfast menu which always includes tomato gravy.
I started serving a hearty Christmas breakfast about 30 years ago. While gifts are unwrapped, we enjoy coffee, eggnog (another tradition) and pastries as a prelude to what has become our main Christmas day meal. The menu has always included a baked ham, grits, tomato gravy, biscuits and an egg dish. About 15 years ago we added dessert. My son-in-law saw a recipe for Crème Brulee French Toast. He wanted to try it, and although it requires planning ahead, it has been on the menu ever since. Over the years, the eggs have appeared in a casserole, in a sausage pie, poached and once we went all out with eggs benedict. The ham and the grits have varied only by brand. The biscuits have been plain, cinnamon or country ham. But the tomato gravy has never changed! Everyone looks forward to this rustic “breakfast” which is actually served in the early afternoon. If I failed to put a large bowl of tomato gravy on the table, I am sure I would face a very disappointed family. In the evening, one by one, the family drifts into the kitchen, and rummages through the various containers of leftovers to find their favorite indulgence. More often than not that includes grits slathered with tomato gravy.
I cannot imagine Christmas without this beloved tradition. Perhaps tomato gravy made its way onto the menu because my mother was so fond of it. She would often heat stewed tomatoes straight from the can without alteration to serve herself over white rice.
2 cans of stewed tomatoes (preferably Hunts)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion, green pepper and celery
3 strips of bacon, fried crisp, crumbled and set aside
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can of water, approximately
A sprig or two of fresh thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
A pinch of sugar to cut acidity, if needed.
Fry bacon, remove from pan, drain, chop, and reserve.
Remove all but 2 Tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet.
Sauté onion, green pepper and celery till tender, but not brown.
Sprinkle flour over sautéed vegetables in skillet. Stir to incorporate.
Quickly add the stewed tomatoes with their liquid.
If some of the tomatoes have unattractive stem ends,
use kitchen shears to remove them and discard.
Bring to a low boil while stirring.
If you want a thinner gravy add some of the water.
If you prefer a thicker gravy, stir in some Gold Medal quick mix flour.
Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
Cook on a low simmer until ready to serve.
Add water to dilute as necessary.
Pour into a serving bowl.
Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.
Serve with grits, rice, biscuits or toast.
I love traditions whether family, Christian or patriotic. Advent is four weeks of tradition, anticipation and waiting. We wait patiently to celebrate Christmas while we observe the tradition of Advent. We celebrate the birth of Christ with traditional hymns and scripture. And we wait for the return of Christ.
Yes, traditions are good! Let us continue to honor the old while embracing the new.
~ Debbie Sowards
Holy Provider, thank You for our daily bread and all of the wonderful foods the earth yields. We also give thanks for the special meals of holidays and for feasting around the table. Let us not forget those who are poor and hungry, Help us to celebrate Jesus’ birth by sharing our food with those in need who are Jesus’ brothers and sisters too. Amen.
Tradition would have us believe that Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit was an apple. What if instead it was a tomato? The apple and tomato’s redness could attest to the fruit being “a delight to the eye.” After the fall, God might have decreed that the tomato, a fruit would never again grow on a tree and hence forward would be a fruit of the vine, While Jesus Christ the apple tree has been accepted as a Christmas Anthem, I suspect Jesus Christ the Tomato vine would never have gained acceptance.