OurStoryRed Gravy began as the dream of a 10 year old little Italian girl from Northern New Jersey in 1972.
I was always most comfortable in the kitchen; and while other kids were watching Bugs Bunny reruns, I was glued to the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child cooking shows on PBS. Never much interested in the academics of school, I did manage to get straight As in Home Ec. Well, the cooking part of Home Ec. anyway. My sewing skills left something to be desired. Throughout grammar school and high school my need to feed (or overfeed, as is my usual habit) my loved ones remained constant. Sadly, I didn’t pursue the dream out of high school. I spent a couple of years in college deluding myself I’d make a really great English teacher. During that time, I married a great guy (Ivan) and had the worlds’ most amazing children (Mark and Coco), and proceeded about the business of life and trying to decide what it was I really wanted. And, still … I’m busy feeding people and perfecting my skills, thanks to self-guided study.
In the early 90s I managed to get hired by a large food service company as a cold prep person. I’d spend the first 4 hours of a 8 hour day making tuna, chicken and egg salad, then spend the remaining part of the day serving sandwiches at the deli line. I must have done something right because within 4 months I was making soups, sauces and vegetables for the entire account. Hungry (okay, bad pun …) for more, I always took on more responsibility, always cooked my heart out, and moved up quickly. I’ve worked at some great accounts and some accounts that still give me nightmares. Regardless, I always learned something, and people ate well. This desire to open a place of my own was getting pretty damn big, all this time, as well. As it turns, my marriage didn’t survive past 25 years (and it’s because of that 25 years and the fact that I was married to a really great guy, that I consider my marriage a complete success). I met Lou during the most self-examining part of my life. I’m not sure how much stock to put into the term soul mates, or opposites attracting, or any of that … but I fell in love with him the moment I met him.
He took me to New Orleans for my 41st birthday, and we’ve both been hooked since. We vacationed here every single year since then, doing the walking tours, the plantation tours, the music club tours, etc. We held our breath when Katrina struck, and cried when we witnessed the levees crumble. We had Christmas reservations for that year. While we had to change hotel plans, we kept the plane tickets and kept the trip booked. I think it was that devastation and the sheer determination of sprit we witnessed in New Orleans that gave me the courage to consider leaving the NYC metro area I’d known for my entire life, and my friends and family, to set up shoppe here. There was also the fact that we were completely unable to vacation anywhere else; every single trip we took was to New Orleans. We decided that if we ever want to see any more of this planet, we’d just have to move here.
And so, here I am, nothing more than a little Italian girl from Northern New Jersey. You’ll notice some of my favorite people have been given the honour of having a menu item named after them. Lou, the love of my life, the man who knows my heart. Mark, my son, who reminds me so much of myself and pushed so hard for me to do this. Coco, my magnificent daughter and possibly the strongest woman I know. Justin, the pirate who reached for Coco, & she let him catch her. Ivan, my first love who taught me it was okay to be myself. Blair, the woman who was lucky enough to win his heart. Nancy, my younger sister, who got away with murder. Jim, my older brother who was almost an impossible act to follow. Debra, my sister in law who has a gentle wicked side. Bruce, my brother in law, who can build it if you need it or fix it if it breaks. GrandMa and GrandDad – my parents, Marianne and Jim – you’ve got to meet them to believe it. They’ve been married since 1956 and are completely interchangeable by now. I hope I’ve made all of you proud. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!
And as for the rest of you… Please come and eat. I always make too much.