Those who grew up in the United States’ mountainous regions of Appalachia or the Ozarks likely remember the smell of rich, dark gravy cooling in a skillet on the stove. But in these particular regions, cooks didn’t—and still don’t—limit themselves to meat-based homestyle sauces. Before gravy adopted savory connotations, it simply meant a stove-top sauce thickened with roux. Resourceful chefs made gravy from scraps, leftovers, and whatever else might’ve gone to waste.
Some hypothesize that the sweet sauce was born between the trade network of Spanish Louisiana and the Tennessee Valley. Appalachian dwellers may have reimagined Spanish breakfast chocolate in a more familiar format, using it to top biscuits. Another likely scenario involves resourceful wives making the most of shelf-stable kitchen staples and farm-fresh milk. That said, the basic combination of cocoa powder, flour, milk, and sugar (and in some kitchens, lard or bacon grease) is no consolation prize. In fact, locals gave it the nickname “soppin’ chocolate” for being the kind of thing worth scooping off a plate with a buttermilk biscuit.
If you’re still not convinced that sweet gravy deserves a place at the table, consider this: Nobody wants savory gravy after it’s gone cold. Cold chocolate gravy, on the other hand, is basically just chocolate pudding.
Where to Try It
Phil's Family Restaurant2900 Central Ave, Hot Springs, Arkansas, 71913, United States
A visit to this highly unusual National Park town will reward you with Arkansan specialties of all kinds.
Kountry Kitchen Grille2604 W Main St, Clarksville, Arkansas, 72830, United States
This highway diner in the Ozarks serves biscuits with savory or chocolate gravy.