Leo was my granddaddy. Why did I call him Leo? He ran an appliance business and when you went to work for him, he would forget to answer to "Grandpa" and eventually I ended up calling him Leo all of the time.
Leo was a fabulous cook. He was fun to cook with - like me, he never used recipes and liked to make things up as he went along. His employee Christmas parties were legendary. He would give everyone an envelope with their bonus, and empty the cash registers. He had dart boards with dollar amounts, a wheel of fortune, and lots of other games where employees could either keep their bonus, or try their luck at the games to make more. Everyone looked forward to the food all year. He would cook about 3 whole prime ribs, salad, potatoes, desserts, but what everyone wanted was his rice and gravy. It was the best I have ever eaten. I have even seen people not put meat on their plate so there would be more room for the gravy!
That was for the employees. Anytime we had roast for Sunday dinner, he made gravy. I would show up early with the kids and do most of the chopping and we made it together. In later years, he sat at the kitchen table, I made the gravy and he told me stories of his childhood and did the taste testing. By the time the rest of the family showed up, the gravy was done and no one ever knew the difference!
Tonight we are having a roast, so I though I would share the recipe. Leo never cooked small, so I have cut the measurements to the size needed for a "normal" meal.
1 large pkg fresh mushrooms, washed and quartered
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
2 cans Campbell's beef broth (not the same if you don't use Campbell's)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
Drippings from the roast
Saute vegetables in butter until onions are transparent. Add drippings from roast. Add soups. Simmer until thick - at least 20 minutes. If the gravy is not thick enough, a small amount of cornstarch that has been dissolved in water can be added.
Serve over rice.
This is the whole meal - roast, rice, gravy, squash, green beans, corn, and cucumbers with tomatoes - perfection on a plate.
When I know I am cooking his food, I miss him more, but I feel so blessed to have had this man so close to me for 32 years. He taught me life was meant to be lived, moments meant to enjoy, and simple pleasures savored. In my life, he was one of the few people who loved me for who I was and who I could always count on to be real. When I am old and look back on my life, I am sure one of the things I will be thankful for is that I had Leo. Enjoy!