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Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch

This sassy bunny is Jean Dau (born Polly Jean Boyles, but she couldn’t stand that first name, so Jean it was), whose 99th birthday would have been today.

She was my one and only grandmother, who we called Gram because as the grandkids started showing up when she was only 50 she would have no part of being a GRANDMOTHER or any such nonsense. I called her Granny Gooch and she called me Nilrad and we got on like houses afire except for when we didn’t. She taught me to ride horses and kick ass and take names and I taught her to swear like a sailor. Peas in a pod, really.

Despite tough times and all the good and bad that go into living on this planet, hers was not a sad story. Hers was a story of a rodeo princess and lifelong horsewoman who became a school teacher and lived the life she wanted to live with no apologies and plenty of grit who even now inspires me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when I think I’m too tired to ever possibly go on.

At any rate, I digress. Suffice it to say that the only bad thing about my Gram dying at 91 in 2011 is that I don’t get to call her on the phone every Saturday any more. Though I do think I talk to her more often these days, oddly enough. I figure she can hear me better now without any device needed because I’m certain that wherever she is, she’s got her eyes and ears on me.

Every year on her birthday, I try to do a little something to honor the time I was lucky enough to spend with her, which usually involves eating something DELICIOUS that might be BAD FOR ME. Doesn’t that sound like fun??

This year, in honor of GG, I decided to whip up her favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy and serve it for dinner (as one does). By which I mean to say, tender, fluffy, glorious biscuit pillows soaking up hefty dollops of milk gravy full of sausage and black pepper and served with eggs basted easy in bacon grease. We are, after all, talking about a woman who would sit and eat mayonnaise by the spoonful out of the jar with a look of sheer joy on her face.

There’s a wonderful article from The Sunday New York Times Magazine that came out about 6 months after Gram died, called, “You Are Making Your Biscuits Wrong” that has not one but two terrific biscuit recipes and a sausage gravy recipe that would have met with Gram’s approval. For this particular celebration, I decided to go with the All-Purpose Biscuits, though I’m certain no one would quibble if you decided to go for the Cake-Flour recipe instead!

I pretty much followed the recipe, with the exception of seasoning the gravy. It calls for sage and fennel, but when I reached into the spice cupboard to doctor it up, I discovered no sage…but I DID spy my little tin of fennel pollen and in a moment of inspiration, used that instead. (Side note here: if you haven’t had the good fortune to bump into fennel pollen yet, it’s worth the time and trouble to track some down. It is truly a little sprinkle of heaven! I found mine on Amazon. And if you get some and don’t know what to do with it, the nice folks at the Escoffier SCA have some ideas to share.) It makes it a little schmancier than the gravy that Gram used to eat, but from the results I can vouch — she would have loved it!

So here’s what things looked like when all was said and done. We drank a toast to Jean Dau and then tucked in to our breakfast for dinner (on the china that Gram gave me, of course!).

Baking powder biscuits, sausage gravy and bacon fat-basted egg

Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch! Miss you every day.

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11 Comments on "Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch"

  • Mike says

    wow, that looks good. I am sure Gram would be proud of you.

  • Paula Russell Weiss says

    I adore biscuits and sausage gravy, and these recipes sound great. Thanks. And I’m thinking, if having this for dinner a little bourbon on the rocks and a good cup of coffee would be fine. (Also, fennel pollen is new to me. Something to explore.)

    • Darlin Gray says

      Paula, I think it’s the best sausage gravy recipe I’ve found — super simple and a restrained ingredients list that lets the flavors shine through. And it would be amazing with a little bourbon on the rocks! Can’t wait to hear what you think about fennel pollen…

  • Sherry Fisk says

    Loved that! You were so lucky to have known her for so long, Nilrad.😜

    • Darlin Gray says

      I was indeed, Sherry!! ♥️♥️♥️

    • Stacy says

      I want more of eat drink pretty. Cheers to Gram!

      • Darlin Gray says

        Cheers to Gram, indeed!!!

  • Great story! Now we know where you obtained your beauty and sassiness. The biscuits and gravy look absolutely delicious; however, I would be taking aspirin for the next couple days to dissolve the cholesterol.

    • Darlin Gray says

      Not quite your typical diet, Gary…but absolutely delicious is right! And you’re right. Gram made MANY contributions to who I am today. Yay!

  • jamee dunn says


    • Darlin Gray says

      SO yuummm!

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