Find Your Gravy Train

By Christopher Peck

I love Thanksgiving; it’s easily my favorite holiday. Some sainted sage once said: “Let’s celebrate thankfulness, with no religious confusion, no commercialization – and eat and eat and eat.” It’s simple gratitude to the core, the perfect design for a holiday. It’s also the High Holy Day for Slow Foodies, who get to scheme for weeks and cook for days, culminating in a leisurely, abundant meal meant to be savored. But Thanksgiving really wins my Gold Medal for being the only holiday meal that spotlights gravy. I LOVE gravy, and the slow foodista that I live with has mastered the high art of broth-crafting, the heart and soul of this culinary epiphany.

CP Find GravyTrain copyI was talking with a client recently about how simple some pleasures are, and how rich they make us feel. It was a few days after Thanksgiving and I was rhapsodic about the broth my sweetheart Genevieve makes, and the resultant gravy I was bathing everything in. The client challenged me to somehow work “gravy” into this upcoming article but as we talked about it, we realized that the simple pleasures are fundamental, underlying so much of what we experience as our “real wealth.” Aha, challenge accepted: “It’ll be all about gravy!” I blurted.

It’s easy to mistake the size of one’s portfolio, the type of car one drives, or the stories we tell ourselves for wealth, but that misses the mark. Real wealth includes tangible things but it’s also, and essentially, the way we feel. The way we feel about life, about our daily experience, about what we eat, what we talk about, the music we listen to, how connected we feel to what’s good.

Clearly real wealth is not a Mercedes or a seven-figure portfolio (even a socially responsible one!), but something subtler, closer to home, more intimate. Perhaps something that reminds us of our childhood, or our grandparents, or maybe something special that was lost and later reclaimed. Did I mention that I really love broth and gravy? It feels deep and nourishing and special and hard to come by, though it’s not difficult to make or even that unusual. But it seems rare, like something that was second nature to your grandmother but which you don’t run across very often.

I’m loving my literal liquid gravy, but there are of course lovely metaphorical connotations in the language, as in the phrase “It’s all gravy,” that imply a particular state of happiness. The Urban Dictionary online has a definition of gravy in this sense: “a state of complacency or happiness. Stable goodness.” I might define it as the happiness that comes from an abiding contentment with life. Not the ecstatic high one gets from winning the lottery (or early 2007 stock and real estate prices), but an enduring sense of satisfaction and well-being that persists over time. Stable goodness and abiding contentment are the core of real wealth, the ultimate quality of life indicators.

For me, gravy is one of the aspects of my “it’s all gravy” feeling (I’m a simple guy), but I asked some loved ones what they thought. Genevieve waxed on about food: fine honey, meyer lemons in abundance, good butter…I had to cut her off there. I know too that quality yarn for knitting and, more importantly, the time to knit are aspects of her gravy train. My parents are retired, and love discovering new National Parks, visiting with old friends and family, and giving away a couple thousand books to the library. Back to literal gravy, they mentioned that it was a Sunday thing: you wouldn’t have it during the week. The cook would be too busy probably, but on the weekend, with some extra time you’d have a larger meal, with a roast, and the cook would make gravy. Time seems to be key to the whole stable goodness theme. Time to enjoy simple pleasures is the essence of abiding contentment.

Please don’t file these thoughts in your “live like a billionaire on $5 a day” crap-file. I think I’m talking about something more subtle and profound here – and also something more realistic. Not profound in a blow-your-mind kind of way, but profound in the-key-to-the-good-life-was-right-before- our-eyes way. Right before my eyes, as in, right here on my plate. What gives you this feeling of stable goodness? What represents gravy to you? Is it literally gravy, other food, time with friends, or another source of simple contentment? How do you make time for it?

Please let me know what you think about this; I’d love to hear!

This article first appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of the Natural Investing newsletter

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Christopher Peck

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