Cincinnati’s Own Jumbo Brand of Peanut Butter


Over the weekend I went to a bottle collectors’ show in Northern Kentucky.   There were anything from vintage cola bottles to ancient apothecary jars and containers.    But being in Greater Cincinnati, one of the things I saw a great deal of were Jumbo Peanut Butter jars.    It seemed like those from nearly every era since its introduction to the market in 1906 were on display.

Jumbo Peanut Butter was a product of our own Frank Tea and Spice Company, founded in 1896 by immigrant brothers Jacob, Emil, and Charles.

Frank is more famous for introducing their Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, that became part of the recipe for the original Buffalo Wings Sauce.    It was made from a blend of choice # 1 peanuts, golden roasted with the bitter hearts and skin removed.        It wasn’t homogenized creamy peanut butter as we know it today, it was the kind with the oil on top, with the puree below.  You had to mix it yourself before spreading.


It was part of a trend of food and other household products named after Jumbo the Circus elephant, who was bought from the London Zoo in 1882 and died shortly after in a railroad accident in 1885.   Although he didn’t last long in life, his skeleton was schlepped around by Barnum and Bailey for the next 20 or so years, an indication of his popularity.  Today, Jumbo’s skeleton is at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.   And, many folks collect the products his image dons, like our Jumbo Peanut Butter.

The funny thing is that peanuts are not part of an elephants diet, but they were popular at circuses where elephants performed, so they were a ready and cheap supply of food.

John Harvey Kellogg of the cereal company applied for the first patent in America for nut butter made from peanuts or almonds, and by 1896 Kellogg was making it on a small scale.    The 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair catapulted peanut butter into the national spotlight and by 1922 there were enough commercial manufacturers to justify the formation of a National Peanut Butter Manufacturer’s Association.   But according to a 1940s Frank Tea and Spice Company brochure, it wasn’t until World War II that it was given status as a between meal snack because of its high protein and Vitamin B, Iron and Calcium.    Anyone outside of America, like the Europeans do not get peanut butter.   They have another nut butter Nutella, made of hazelnuts and chocolate blended together.


Female workers packing peanut butter at Franks in the 1940s.

Frank applied for a patent on Jumbo in 1927.   They built a new plant at Third and Culver Streets, and then in 1920 a building at Fifth and Culvert Street was built with equipment for the cleaning, inspection , roasting and grinding of peanuts and the packaging of the peanut butter.     Can you imagine how great the neighborhood smelled when they were roasting the peanuts?


In the 1940s for a brief time, Frank also made a Jumbo Apple Butter in Cincinnati.


They made it in a variety of jara – the most common being the 1 lb.   But they also made small sample sizes shaped like Dumbo, and a large family sized octagonal jar. Jumbo Peanut Butter was also known for the eclectic sayings on the bottom of the jars including “Try Jumbo Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, “Best for the kiddies”, or “Jumbo Good Enuf for Me”.

Frank Tea and Spice was sold to a national company in 1969.     According to John Frank, the grandson of the founder and last owner of the company, Skippy approached them to toll manufacture their  homogenized spreadable peanut butter.   But Frank Tea and Spice refused because they didn’t have the money to invest in homogenization equipment.    Skippy found another manufacturer and they and other brands like Peter Pan took over they market with their homogenized spreadable peanut butters.   And, Jumbo Peanut Butter became a beloved brand of the past, whose jars are now widely collected.

Little Mexico – OTR’s Longest Running Chili Parlor


The Little Mexico Chili Parlor blazons its two story tall Chili sign to passers by on Vine Street in the 1970s.

Today Over-the-Rhine is known for its high end chef-driven restaurants.   But for most of it’s time, it was filled with diners, take and go’s, and walk ups that catered to the working class people who lived there.    One of these longtime restaurants was the Little Mexico Chili Parlor, a Cincinnati style chili parlor opened in 1934 by Peter Meyer at 1348 Vine Street near 14th street.    It was in the building next to what’s now known as the Paint Building that houses popular new restaurant KAZE.

When the Kiradjieff Brothers Tom and John opened Empress, the first Cincinnati Chili parlor in 1922, just six blocks south of Little Mexico in the Empress Burlesque Theatre, they paved the way for our beloved industry.   While they were building the word of Cincinnati chili in the 1920s,  Peter made his living as a competitive swimmer.   He was the undisputed champion of Cincinnati in his youth. He entered and won  second place in the Catalina Channel Race in 1926.   He swam a marathon 12 and a half hour swim in the old Chester Park Rainbow Pool.


Peter Meyer, owner of Little Mexico Chili Parlor in his younger swimming days.

He served threeways, fourways, and cheese coneys that many say were on smaller buns and made with smaller hot dogs.    In the 1950s you could get a dozen of his cheese coneys for a dollar.    He opened at 10:30 AM and closed at 3:30 AM, catering to the service industry and saloon workers of Over-the-Rhine.   He had no jukebox or cigarette machine, because he believed turnover was important to business.  Peter didn’t want any lingerers.

He was also the only Cincinnati chili purveyor who associated Cincinnati-style chili with Mexico, where chili was invented.   And his name, Meyer was more Germanic sounding than Greek, which was the ethnicity of nearly all the other Cincinnati chili parlors.

Many said his chili was unique and like nothing you could get today.   Although Peter never revealed or shared his recipe, he did say that it contained 10 different spices.  He said at the time, Cincinnatians liked spicy chili.    And he had loyal customers who came in daily for their spicy bowl of chili.    Three bowls a day was on Peter’s diet.   Many say that Empress Chili was also very spicy and if you didn’t watch it, you’d get a bit of a whole spicy pepper.

He had one competitor, the Manhattan Chili Parlor in the same block, at 13th and Vine, run by Andrew Landi, who opened the parlor in 1943.    There seemed to be a lot of trouble at the Manhattan, and with its owner, and it had closed by 1950.    Empress left the burlesque theatre and relocated to Fifth Street on the property that’s now the Chiquita Building.   So, Peter reigned King of Vine Street Chili.

He opened his 10 seat chili parlor in an old Italianate building, indicative of the stock of Over-the-Rhine.  The large cast iron storefront provided a big glass window to look out on the goings on in the street.   OTR was as active then as it was now.   They were robbed several times, a drunken woman stabbed the manager, Ernst Lovingood, and even had a car crash into the front of the building.

Peter passed away in 1971 at his house in College Hill, but Warren Lovingood, the son of one of his managers, Ernst Lovingood took over until 1983, when the decay of the neighborhood and the level of crime, AND a car crashing into the front of the parlor told him it was time to move on.   Pete was quoted in the Enquirer as saying, “I think we’re going to have trouble down here.  I can just feel it.”

But Little Mexico was one of the few that held on, and remains the longest running Cincinnati style chili parlor in Over-the-Rhine, which currently has no chili parlor.

The Cincinnati Brewery Songbook – Getting Women to Drink


Two Schoenling Brewing complimentary songbooks from World War II.

Cincinnatians were super excited at the end of Prohibition in 1933.  Bruckmann Brewery of Cumminsville had operated all through Prohibition, with a special license to produce ‘malt tonic.’   So they were the first ready to offer cold beer legally to thirsty men at local bars like the Wheel Café.    But at the time all bars were stag only.   Only a few, like some of the Jug Houses of northern Kentucky, offered a separate sitting room for women  It wasn’t considered proper for a woman – single or married – to sit with men at a bar.   So, in order to get the female population drinking to raise post Prohibition revenues, local breweries published free songbooks to make popular the home beer sing-a-long party.   Many of these songbooks weren’t just lyrics, but full piano scores.

I remember my grandmother talking about these parties with her siblings in their younger single dating days in the Knob Hill Neighborhood of Newport, Kentucky.    Partying singles would meet a say a roller rink or an ice cream parlor and then go back to any house that had a piano.   They would crowd around the piano usually with a cold cut tray, and sing together into the night.     Grandma called these groups ‘Goodtimers.’     Her older sister, Mary, taught herself how to play the piano and was probably very popular at these parties.   Both still had taste for local lager beer into old age, even if their meds required it to be non alcoholic.


Brucks showed the types of cold cut trays to serve at a sing-a-long party.

Singing While drinking is like eating salty foods at a sporting event.  We tend to drink more.   Especially with singing, liquid courage makes us all feel like an American idol.  So the marketeers knew that promoting people singing AND drinking would increase revenue.


Brucks was the first to issue a post Prohibition songbook in 1933, which showed a family – Mom, Dad, and pre0teenage son around a dinner table drinking Brucks Beer together.   These songbooks had popular American songs like Sweet Adelide, but also had popular German songs like O Du Lieber Augustin, Latterback, and the popular Schnitzelbank song, a German children’s ditty turned drinking song.   The song paired rhyming German phrases like Oxen Blas, Grosses Glas, Schnickel Fritz and Haufen Mist to help children learn the Mother tongue.   Breweries would issue posters of the Schnitzelbank song in time for release of their spring Bock beers or at Oktoberfest.


Another interesting dynamic was happening with these songbooks, at least prior to World War II.  By including the German songs local breweries were trying to preserve the Germanic identity, even while second generation Germanic Americans were unknowingly formulating the new American melting pot ethnicity, that included things like apple pie, hot dogs, and hamburgers, instead of schnitzel and sauerbraten.


During and after the War, Schoenling showed whole families singing together around Uncle Sam.  At that point, the German songs were purged from the songbooks due to the anti-German sentiment leading up to the war.

While none of our new micro breweries have issue songbooks in January of this year, Moerlein instituted a Saturday night sing-a-long at their Moore street taproom.   Maybe they should be the first to bring back the beer songbook.



My 80’s Gradeschool Cafeteria Pizza


Lately there’s been a lot of 80s references in my life.     I was dancing to the Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry on Friday night at a young hipster club downtown with my friend Ramona to celebrate her 50th.      I just binged on the new season of Stranger Things and the German Version, Dark – both set in the 80s, with awesome cultural references to my early years.

So it made me think back to one of my favorite cafeteria foods – that thick, rectangular 4″ X 6″ pizza we had once or twice a week if we were lucky.   It was thick, most of the time, crunchy, and came in two flavors – plain cheese, which was usually more common, and sausage.   The sausage was similar to the type on Marion’s or Cassano’s pizza, which had a lot of caraway seed, which I love.   It’s probably this pizza that formed my love for caraway into adulthood – I seek it in rye breads, in sauerkraut, and as a crunch on salads.  I had heard there was also a pepperoni version from some of my other friends who went to other schools, but my St. Bart’s Consolidated never had the pepperoni.   Maybe it was more expensive.

where to buy school pizza

I was one of the geeks who bought plain white milk, rather than the more popular chocolate milk, or later “orange drink’, which I don’t think had any real orange contained within.     But even as a youngster, I knew I didn’t want any extraneous flavors to interfere with this delightful square pizza on those special days.

So all this 80s nostalgia of jean jackets and pop music, made me wonder if this pizza was still available today and where I could find it.    First of all it’s called appropriately Commodity Pizza and is made by a company called Tony’s.     It’s a non-yeasted dough, and therefore very dense – probably to fill up our gradeschool bellies throughout the long day.    And it was fairly thick, seemingly about an inch or higher.  Other companies make a wannabe, but Tony’s is the real dealio.     I’ve seen knockoffs since then at local meat markets, but they are thinner and don’t have the right sauce or sausage.   The pizza is only available through a local food distributor, like Schwann’s or Gordons Food Service, and only comes in the case for about $50.    The order numbers are as follows: 78456 Sausage  and  63572 Cheese.

It’s a small investment in making you feel about 30 years younger.

Orthodox Jewish History in Downtown Cincinnati – And the Food Events That Solidified Reform Judaism


The Aahbeth Achim Synogogue built in 1865, which FC Cincinnati wants to demolish.

The Isaac M. Wise Temple  downtown is the seat of Reform Judaism in Cincinnati.   And there are other remnants – like the oldest Jewish Cemetery west of the Alleghanies in the West End- that speak to a once vibrant downtown Jewish community.    So why do we not have New York level numbers of Jewish delis in our city?    Well, I blame it on P & G for inventing Crisco, allowing Jewish housewives not to have to make their own schmaltz or chicken fat to cook their food in.   They couldn’t use the more available pork lard that every one of the nearly 100 meat packers sold in Porkopolis because it wasn’t considered Kosher.    Then there’s the fact that Reform Judaism, which didn’t adhere to the strict Kosher laws, was headquartered right here in Cincinnati.    But  our Orthodox Jewish community did invent the square matzoh with the help of the Manischewitz family.


There are three historic Orthodox synagogues in Cincinnati still standing that speak to the reform happening in American Judaism in the 1880s in Cincinnati and across the country.    Our own FC Cincinnati soccer team wants to demolish one of them, the second oldest one standing, that of the Ahabeth Achim or Congregation of Brotherly Love on John Street in the West End.    The building was built in 1865, and has been a German Protestant church, and most recently an African American Baptist Church with ties to the Civil Rights Movement.    The oldest standing synagogue, was built for the Sheareth Israel Congegation and was built in 1861 on Lodge Street (now Ruth Lyons Alley) between 5th and 6th near the Aronoff Center.   It was formed by the remnant of the Bene Israel congregation that rejected the reforms of Rabbi Max Lilenthal and remained Orthodox.   It has been preserved and is now apartments.   The third is on 420 Clark Street, and was built in 1922 for the Romanian Orthodox Anshei Sholom Congregation, and was there until 1933.   But by then, Reform Judaism had a strong hold in Cincinnati.


The Romanian Orthodox Synagogue on Clark Street next to the Betts House.

The 1880s in Cincinnati were an active time for the emergence of Reform Judaism.   If you walk from Ruth Lyons alley from Sheareth Israel Synagogue to the Aronoff and look up to Mt. Adams, you can see the spot where the Highland House Resort used to sit.   On July 11, 1883 a very controversial event took place there called the Trefa Banquet.   It was a decadent banquet with a highly non-kosher menu that celebrated the first graduating class of the Hebrew Union College.    Although no Porkopolis pork was served, in the nine courses of the meal non Kosher foods of clams, crab,  shrimp, froglegs and ice cream served alongside meats were presented.   The menu offended many who attended and the newspapers made a huge stink of the whole ordeal.  It became symbolic of the growing divide between Reform and Orthodox Judaism.


Then in 1889, Bloch publishers in Cincinnati published what would become the most successful Jewish cookbook, Aunt Babette’s Cookbook: Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the American Household,   It contained many non Kosher dishes like oysters cooked on the shell, pork dishes and other shellfish.   It contained many central German dishes known to many of the Christian Germanic immigrants of Cincinnati.   Aunt Babette became  sort of a fictional Jewish Betty Crocker, but she was the penname of Bertha Kramer, an immigrant from near Frankfurt, Germany.

Bloch Printing Company owner, Edward Bloch’s sister Theresa, was married to none other than Cincinnati’s Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the greatest pioneer of reform Judaism in America. His papers Die Deborah and the Israelite (the oldest American Jewish newspaper) gave Bloch Publishing more than enough work to fill their presses.      The section of Seder recipes was titled Easter dishes to try to connect Seder and Christian Easter, as reform Judaism tried to assimilate into America, by connecting Easter eggs with the hard boiled eggs served at Seder.

We still have a chain of Izzy’s Deli’s that while started by a Jewish couple, is now owned by a Catholic.    But we have a rich Jewish history now in danger of being erased by FC Cincinnati.


Franciscan Goetta in Cincinnati


Father’s Bruce and Bryant Hausfeld, keepers and makers of the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist of Cincinnati’s oldest goetta recipe.

The Franciscan priests and brothers of the St. John Province of Cincinnati have a long legacy of making goetta.    Although the original Franciscan priests who came to Cincinnati were from Tyrol, in Southern Austria, about 500 miles south of  goetta country,   the majority of priests ordained in later decades were from Germanic immigrant families from goetta country in Northwestern German provinces of Saxony, Westphalia, and Hanover.   Their recipes trace the history of the order in Cincinnati.    And their stories show how goetta has crossed racial and cultural boundaries since it came to Cincinnati as a poor immigrant food.


The Refectory or Dining Hall of St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine, where lots of goetta has been eaten over the last century.

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to share dinner with 8 of them at the refectory or dining hall in the living quarters of St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine.    At the table to my left were the Director of Vocations, a visiting priest from Arizona; to my right were my friend Matt – a recently vowed brother, the Province Vicar, several retired priests, and the Guardian of St. Francis Seraph, Brother Tim, who many know through his ministry in Over-the-Rhine and his wonderful Nativity displays over the holidays at the Moerlein Lager House.     I had brought my new goetta book for Matt to give his brother-in-law and of course that brought up a discussion amongst the group about Franciscan goetta.

The first memory was of Brother Francis S. Williams (1926-2004), the first African-American brother of the St. John Province, who became a cook later in life for the Franciscan community at St. Francis Seraph.    Although not from Cincinnati, he formulated his own goetta recipe for the majority of his fellow Franciscans, who were from Germanic Cincinnati goetta eating families.   His unique flavor adders to goetta were poultry seasoning and onion powder.    Brother Williams was a big man – tall, broad and meaty, with hands as big as dinner plates.   He was known for his funny stories and his amazing goetta.     I was given access to his beloved pork-only goetta recipe in the Franciscan archives to share.


In my book I mention two Franciscan brothers, Fathers Bruce and Bryant Hausfeld, who both lived in and were pastors to the parishes around Cerillos, New Mexico, and made their mother’s goetta recipe, when relatives shipped them Dorsel Pinhead Oats from Cincinnati.     It turns out they were uncles of Brother Tim and their mother Collette Grein Hausfeld, was, of course, his grandmother.     Br. Tim said when his grandmother, who lived in St. Bernard, made goetta, the family loved it.  “It was like we had all died and gone to heaven.”      I wonder how often the brothers shared goetta with native New Mexicans of their congregations.   If they added local hatch chili peppers they may have made some spicy goetta converts in New Mexico.

Father Bryant was in the same class at the former St. Francis Monastery in Mt. Healthy across from the Kolping Society on Mill Road as Fr. Benedict Justice, the First African American Franciscan priest ordained in Cincinnati.  He stayed with Harry and Collette Hausfeld in St. Bernard, when he and Fr. Bryant were on holiday breaks from the seminary in the years 1949-1952.    And Collette certainly served him her wonderful goetta for breakfast.


Collette Grein Hausfeld (1900-1991) , progenitor of the Franciscan’s oldest goetta recipe.

One would think that the recipe would have passed down from Collette’s mother, Maria “Mame” Haverty Grein, but she was of Irish ancestry.   It was Collette’s father’s family where the goetta recipe came from.   Phillip Grein (1877-1907), Collette’s father, Br. Tim’s great grandfather, operated a meat market in Arlington Heights in the 1930s and 40s, where he made goetta.    Phillip’s parents were German immigrants Katherine Kaiser and Richard Grein, who settled in Reading, Ohio.

Phillip’s son was also a Franciscan, Fr. Cornelius Grein (1907-1977), who was as his great nephew Br. Tim, a Guardian of St. Francis Seraph Parish in 1933-1935, and 1943, before becoming Master of St. Anthony Monastery in Mt. Airy.   At St. Anthony, all new priests and brothers were required to take a cooking class to be able to make meals for large groups.    That course surely included how to make goetta.     Fr. Cornelius was a missionary in China from 1935 to 1943 and I wonder if he ever introduced them to Cincinnati goetta.   Szechuan goetta, now that’s a thought!

Fr. Cornelius’ sister, Br. Tim’s Great Aunt, Sister Phillip Mary Grein, was a nun – not a Franciscan, but a Sister of Notre Dame Namurs, so the Grein family goetta recipe made it into the local Notre Dame nunhouse.      Fr. Cornelius Grein, had two other Franciscan nephews (a total of four including Frs. Bruce and Bryant) ordained into the Cincinnati province, Fathers Blaine Grein, and Bruce Mulroy.     But it didn’t stop there in their family – a great grandniece, Sister Marie Claire Hausfeld, was also a Franciscan nun and took the Grein family goetta recipe to Oldenburg, Indiana, where goetta had a cousin known as haver grits (oat grits), brought there by Northwestern German Catholic immigrants from Oldenburg, Germany.    Br. Tim is the grand nephew of Fr. Cornelius Grein.    So the Grein/Hausfeld goetta recipe made it to many parishes and Franciscan institutions in Cincinnati and beyond and still lives on today as the oldest Franciscan Goetta Recipe in Greater Cincinnati.

St. Ida, Patroness of Goetta Country and Her Feast Day Food


Portrait of St. Ida of Herzfeld, by Cincinnati German Immigrant church painter, Gerhard Lamers.

St. Ida of Herzfeld is one of the local patroness of Goetta country in Westphalia.   She’s sort of to Westphalians and Saxonians what St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is to Americans.    She’s the home town girl, having lived in Herzfeld, ministering to the poor of Westphalia and Saxony.    She is the patroness of engaged and expectant mothers, the poor, and the weak,  and is typically shown feeding a stag, the symbol of the Saxon people in Northwestern Germany.     Gerhard Lamers, a German immigrant, from Goetta country, who painted over ten churches in Cincinnati, sketched a portrait of her for a church in Germany.



Old prayer card of St. Ida, which many German immigrant Cincinnatians might have carried and her stained glass window in the church in Herzfeld.

Ida was the daughter of a Saxon count, and received her education in the court of Charlemagne, and married one of his dukes, Egbert.    They were given a large endowment by Charlemagne and they built the church in Herzefeld in the Diocese of Munster, the city in the southeast corner of the German Goetta parallelogram.    Upon the early death of her husband, Ida used her endowment to feed the poor of Westphalia, and upon her death in 825, was buried in the Church at Herzfeld.   She was canonized shortly thereafter and her tomb at the church became the first pilgrimage site in Westphalia, and she became a popular saint in Goetta country.    Many Westphalian and Saxon immigrants carried her holy card with them to Cincinnati, and there were probably images and statues of her in the German Catholic churches of Cincinnati that are no longer standing.


St. Ida’s Parade in Herzefeld, Westphalia, in September.

The church where she is buried has an elaborate Ida Woche or Ida Week, a series of celebrations around her feast day on September 4 , culminating in a food festival on the square in front of the church.   This is around the time that pigs are slaughtered in northwestern Germany in celebrations called Schlachfest.   Like many popular saints, Ida’s  bones were originally separated.   Her skull and neck were removed from her original tomb and put in an elaborate golden coffer displayed in the church.   But thankfully all her bones have been reunited and are paraded through the town with great fanfare during her celebration in an elaborate golden sarcophagus.  The parades are followed by an “Ida Blessing” for the whole town.


The crypt of St. Ida in Herzfeld, and the golden coffer that formerly held the relic of her skull.

The town festival is celebrated with regional favorites like Himmel und Erd (Heaven and Earth) – a dish of  fried potatoes (earth), stewed apples or applesauce (Heaven) and a relative of goetta, a blood grain sausage called beutelwurst.     A dish of Leberkase or liver sausage is served with potatoes, sauerkraut and fried egg.     Schweinsbraten is a roast pork loin in a black beer sauce, local dumplings, and savoy cabbage in sour cream.     A Schlachtfest Platte or Slaughter Plate is sort of like  Northwest German charcuterie of smoked meats – liver sausage, beutelwurst, smoked pork, and savoy cabbage in sour cream.


Himmel und Erd, or Heaven and Earth, a dish of Westphalia that integrates the regional goetta ancestor, beutelwurst.

Cincinnati needs an Ida Mass at Old St. Mary’s in Over-the-Rhine, with a traditional Westphalian food fest – insert goetta in place of beutelwurst!

Chocolate Gravy and Cathead Biscuits: The Appalachian Breakfast of Champions


This weekend a post kayaking lunch at a Jim and Jack’s on the (Ohio) River made for some interesting discussions about regional food.    Two of the group were non-native Cincinnatians – Peggy from West Virginia and Patricia from the Northeast.     As we were talking about goetta as a breakfast food, Peggy mentioned one of her favorite breakfast dishes from her home in West Virginia – chocolate gravy and cathead biscuits.

Now I’ve heard of biscuits and sausage gravy.  I’ve even tasted our local version – goetta white gravy and biscuits.   But I had never heard of chocolate gravy and biscuits.   I do admit us Yankees don’t really know how to make good Southern cathead biscuits, even though biscuit restaurants like Boomtown Biscuits, have popped up in trendy Over-the-Rhine in the last year.   So I had to know more about this new breakfast delicacy from our neighbors to the East.

Peggy said the gravy is more like warm chocolate pudding.    For a gravy, typically a roux is made by first browning flour and butter in a pan.   But in the case of chocolate gravy – which some call ‘soppin chocolate’ – the dry ingredients – cocoa powder, flour, and sugar are first mixed together, and the milk or buttermilk slowly added over heat  before the butter is added and melted.     The chocolate pudding or gravy is then drenched over delicious cathead biscuits – not the small silver dollar sized Pillsbury biscuits from the popout can.       The biscuits then sop up the delicious chocolate and create an amazing and filling breakfast   This is a dish that resourceful mommas made to turn an ordinary biscuit into something extraordinary.

Appalachian Mountain cuisine is kind of like what bourbon is to whiskey.   It’s part of the whole of Southern cuisine, but also distinguishable from the rest.   Chocolate gravy and biscuits is popular in the Appalachian Mountain region, and the Ozarks of Oklahoma and Kansas.     Those who love it also pour it over poundcake and ice cream.    Some even add fresh strawberries when in season to make sort of a mountain strawberry shortcake.  According to Michael Freedman who wrote Elvis Memories, chocolate gravy and biscuits was a common breakfast for Elvis at Graceland.

Apparently there’s another school of thought on chocolate gravy that uses bacon dripping as the fat required for the gravy instead of butter, along with adding bacon bits into the pudding.    And there seems to be a Hatfield-McCoy dispute about which one is the better version – there is some fierce loyalty to one or the other.

Well, if it was good enough for the King of Rock, it’s good enough for me.    Chocolate gravy and biscuits is on my list of breakfast tries.