Biscuits and gravy is breakfast done right. It’s also the only saving grace of the entire brunch concept. Cold cereal in milk? Get-outta-here with that overly processed bowl of refined sugars and random grains of sadness. Pancakes? Those sweet cakes used to be only served as a dessert for a reason. Bacon and eggs? Okay, well, those aren’t that bad actually; but it’s still not the wonderfulness that’s biscuits and gravy. The soft, quick bread (yeast isn’t used) and creamy sauce shine as a filling and savory way to start any day.
I’ll admit nostalgia may be swaying my bold stance. I go way back with biscuits and gravy. When I was a kid, I’d spend summers with my grandparents. Every first day of my stay, my grandma would make me the same breakfast. She’d crack open a tube of Pillsbury Dough Boy Biscuits, gently place them on a baking sheet — a masterful display of 80s processed food uniformity –, and pop them in the oven.
I’d watch with anticipation as she’d unwrap fresh breakfast sausages from one of those white styrofoam meat trays from the supermarket and fry up them up in a big old skillet that her dad used to fry bacon in. She’d sneak in a little vegetable oil to amp up the browning. Then she’d set the sausages aside and add in flour with a worn silver spoon. Next came the farm fresh milk that was delivered that morning. She’d stir and stir with that spoon. She’d add salt and fine black pepper, taste and adjust. A bell would ring and the biscuits would appear from the darkness of the oven, all plump and golden. Then she’d cut up the sausages and dump them back into the gravy before ladling the velvety sauce over two biscuits just for me.
Over the decades, biscuits and gravy have become my go-to breakfast order. I’ve eaten them off paper plates after hiking through Redwoods. You better believe I was eating biscuits and gravy at every roadside diner I found in rural Mississippi. When I’d stumble out of an Atlantic City casino at seven in the AM, it was time for biscuits and gravy. That’s what’s great about biscuits and gravy: The dish is literally everywhere in America.
As I charted my own path across the planet, I tried and tried to find something, anything, similar to biscuits and gravy out there. You get close with scones in the U.K. but that sweet nugget is best served with sweet accompaniments (marmalade!) and not a sausage-stuffed white sauce. I found other starch covered in gravy dishes like brown gravy on fries in Canada and the U.K. But that’s potatoes standing in for the biscuits, making it a whole other (delicious) beast.
I came across pav bhaji on the streets of Mumbai. The soft yeast-risen bread with a buttery chickpea gravy is the closest I came to finding a biscuit and gravy dish. The similarity is in form only. That dish is so divergent in flavor that it’s just not the same.
Finally, after all my searching — and eating — I had to give up. The combination of a fast-rising quick bead smothered in a white sauce/béchamel/country gravy made with sausage drippings and sausage meat is, well, singular in this crazy old world. You can’t say that about an omelet, now, can you? Every culture has some riff on the omlet.