These recipes originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
Pull up a chair and stay awhile.
“Just off the beaten path, a little dot on a state road map, that’s where I was born and where I’ll die” are masterfully written lyrics by Rick Bowles and Josh Leo. You may recognize them from the 1991 hit “Down Home” by the country music band, Alabama. This ditty spins around in my head every time I think of my visit to my dear friend Owen Jones’s family home in the small town of Fairview, Tennessee, nestled in the rolling hills southwest of Nashville.
Like many of you, I love family traditions, so when Owen invited me to an annual breakfast hosted by his parents, Reed and Dorothy, I eagerly accepted. I asked Owen how the tradition started, and he shared that his daddy loved to cook big country breakfasts. Reed invited his whole family to join them on the first Saturday in November when the air becomes crisp, and the fall season takes hold. Following one such celebration, Owen’s wife, Kathy, asked what the gathering should be called, to which Reed replied, “Let’s call it the Declaration of the Holidays Breakfast.” Over the years, the guest list has grown as the family has grown, with Owen and his siblings stepping in to help as 50-60 guests are served each year.
When that Saturday finally rolled around, I grabbed my friend, Holly, and set out for Fairview. As predicted, the air was crisp, the grass was still wet with morning dew, and the fog was burning away as we approached the steps of the modest brick home. The deep aroma of sausage, ham, and coffee beckoned us. Entering the warm and crowded living room, I eyed a makeshift buffet and a stack of mix and match plates — undoubtedly a collection from Owen’s years growing up in this sweet place. Holly and I settled in with some folks we knew and shook hands with others we didn’t as we feasted on ham and eggs with red-eye gravy, and biscuits with tomato gravy, pear honey, and blackberry jam.
As I looked around the small home, busting at the seams with community, I wondered how I could feel so at home in a room full of mostly strangers. That’s the essence of gathering around a meal together. Sharing ourselves and our stories leaves us a little more connected and a lot more full.
Reed’s Biscuits ▶ Makes 12-16 biscuits
2 c. self-rising flour
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil (plus a little extra for
greasing the tops of biscuits and sheet pan)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour (for dusting the board)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. With pastry brush, grease pan with oil. Pour two cups of flour in a medium bowl. Add milk and oil, then stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Turn dough onto a well-floured board. Knead until smooth, then roll out with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough using a round cutter. Place biscuit rounds on a greased sheet pan crowding them in place. Brush tops of biscuits with oil to help them brown. Bake for 10- 12 minutes watching carefully until lightly browned.
A Tip from Laura
For best results, get the biscuits into the oven as quickly as you can.
Red-Eye Gravy ▶ Makes 4 servings
4-6 slices country ham (including fatty pieces)
1/4 c. drippings from country ham
1/2 c. black coffee
Fry ham slices in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Set ham aside and pour reserved drippings or fat in a small bowl. Turn the skillet on high and pour black coffee in the pan stirring to deglaze the pan, releasing the bits of ham. Add the grease or ham drippings to the pan and combine. Pour into a gravy boat and serve with ham and biscuits.
Dorothy’s Tomato Gravy ▶ Makes 4 servings
1 lb. ground sausage or patties
1/4 c. grease from sausage
1 small onion (diced)
3 Tbsp. flour
14.5 oz. canned diced tomatoes
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground sausage or patties. Set sausage aside, reserving the grease in the pan and add onions to the pan. Cook the onions until translucent then sprinkle in the flour, whisking and cooking until the flour turns brown. Add the can of tomatoes and turn to low heat. Cook until gravy thickens. Serve in a gravy boat. Pour over biscuits.
A Tip from Laura
To make sausage gravy, create a roux by adding whole milk to the flour
instead of the tomatoes.
Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.