In the scheme of things this Thanksgiving, it's all gravy

Study says Baltimore is tops when it comes to using the canned stuff

November 27, 2003|By Lisa Pollak | Lisa Pollak,SUN STAFF

Happy Thanksgiving, Baltimore. Pass the turkey, please, and don't forget the viscous combination of turkey stock, water, wheat flour, turkey fat, modified food starch, autolized yeast extract, seasonings and caramel coloring otherwise known as canned gravy.

According to the people who are paid to study such matters, Baltimoreans bought more canned gravy, per capita, than shoppers in 51 other major markets last Thanksgiving. (For those feeling competitive, Memphis is apparently the big city where most gravy is cooked from scratch, with people there buying 83 percent less canned gravy at Thanksgiving than during other weeks of the year.)

Though hardly a scandal, last week's news from the ACNielsen market research firm clearly isn't something to feel proud about. Or so it seemed from the reaction of chef Cindy Wolf, co-owner of Charleston restaurant, who asked, "Do I really have to be quoted on canned gravy?" before telling us she had no comment on this news.

But maybe we shouldn't assume the worst about Baltimore's home cooks. After all, points out Deborah Harris, manager of Cafe Hon in Hampden, "Not everybody is just using the canned gravy. They're using it to add a little color and flavor to their homemade gravy. And there's nothing wrong with that."

(For the record, Cafe Hon's gravy is homemade, says Harris, "basically from scratch, with a little bit of base in it.")

In the ACNielsen study, which tracked buying habits during the week ending Nov. 30, 2002, Baltimore also scored high in per capita purchases of canned mincemeat, canned yams and canned plum pudding, along with refrigerated cider and frozen pies.

It may not be something to brag about around the Thanksgiving table. But of all the studies that have put Baltimore near the top in recent years (syphilis and violent crime rates come to mind), this is certainly one of the easiest to swallow.

After all, canned gravy might not be gourmet fare, but it probably won't kill you, either.

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