Although the economy improved in many areas in the post-Depression era, there were those who still struggled to eke out a living. One such family who tried to move forward included a young mother, her four small children, and their stepfather. The children were descendents of proud Cherokee people, yet during this time, the stigma of being of any race other than white was an obstacle. The mother worked each day in the Alabama fields. She wanted the children to be free and play as much as possible when school was not in session yet welcomed their help should they choose to assist. What little the children earned they gave to their mother.
Meals were scanty. Sometimes all that was available was a bit of cornmeal for corn pone, which she split between supper and breakfast and covered with syrup. The children were sent to glean what they could from the fields. Sometimes it would be green tomatoes to be fried or sour grass for a pie, or even a turtle found in the creek.
When tomatoes were abundant, this young mother, Uvader Brown Pierce, who would become my grandmother, made tomato gravy. It is not a well-known food, but there are pockets of people scattered throughout the South who were raised on it—from Alabama all the way up to Delaware.
6 tablespoons drippings (bacon grease or lard)
6 tablespoons flour
1 or more cups fresh or canned tomatoes, cut up
Liquid equal to 2 cups (tomato juice, water, milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Bacon, fried and crumbled (optional)
Melt drippings in skillet on low to medium heat. Slowly add the flour and whisk or stir to make a consistent roux. Slowly add the tomatoes and liquid, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot, fresh biscuits. Add crumbled bacon (optional).
Variations: If no tomatoes are on hand, tomato juice will work. You can also add onions and bacon to the drippings.