I noticed a recipe the other day in a cooking section of a paper, and the young lady who was commenting on the chef’s talents had observed that he made his gravy with a lot of pieces of hearts and livers and other less desirable parts, all diced up. The general consensus seemed to be that the chef was trying to put something over on his customers, as well as use up the leftovers from the fowl he was cooking.

I don’t know where the young lady was from, nor where she was going. But I do know that no true Southerner would think of having a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey-and-dressing feast, without serving giblet gravy. My trusty Funk & Wagnalls defines “Giblets (jib-lets)” as “The edible viscera of a fowl.” My Momma would have defined giblets as the liver, heart, and gizzard of the main course, the turkey. When we hunted wild turkey, we were instructed to carry a zip-lock bag in our pocket, and to save those precious parts when we gutted the gobbler, “and get them on ice right away, too!” Seems like she generally simmered the neck, and maybe even the parson’s nose, in a separate pan to add those juices to the giblet gravy, for a little more “sumption” (sump-shun).

The gizzard had to be split and cleaned out, with the rough, skin-like inside pared out, along with, of course, any contents. I have watched turkeys and ducks swallow pecans and pignuts whole (one wood duck hen shoveled down SEVEN wild pecans in a row! She was only a few feet away from where I hid behind a tree, and I counted.) and strut or swim happily along, content to let their gizzards grind the hard nuts to digestible particles. The old saying, “He’s got grit in his craw,” refers to the need for birds to peck up small pebbles or sand grains, to provide the grinding action inside the gizzard muscle.

I have a Cajun friend who claims the best gumbo in the whole world is made from the gizzards of coots. Coots, for those who aren’t outdoors people, are those little black near’bout ducks, that don’t fly real well and generally raft up in flocks that even feed up onto the banks. I once made the mistake of tasting a coot, and it ain’t a mistake I’m likely to make again. Yet their gizzards are the best gumbo ingredients, Teddy swears.

Before we leave the subject of gizzards and wild turkeys, let me deliver one tip for hunters that definitely affects the meat after you have bagged a gobbler. The first thing you need to do, before you even draw (or gut) the bird is to remove the goozle. That’s the holding sack for food headed down into the gizzard, and to get to it, make a simple slit as the base of the turkey’s neck, about two inches long. Reach your finger in and draw out the clear-looking sack, cut it loose at both ends, check it to see what the turkeys are feeding on in that area so you’ll know where to hunt tomorrow, then throw it away. There is no sumption in a goozle (also called a craw).

I was making a talk last week, and made a reference to the water out at Brownspur being better for you, since it had a little sumption to it. Bless her heart, one young lady in the audience not only didn’t know what sumption was, but she admitted that! Of course, she also admitted right out front to being from New York, so you have to respect her for being willing to reveal her ignorance.

The way I always heard it used, sumption means a little extra, but always applied to food and drink, as opposed to lagniappe, which means a little extra in most anything.

When you got to the bottom of a good pot of soup or stew, and the bone – usually a ham hock – was about the only thing left, you were lucky if the cook would let you have the bone to clean, which included sucking the sumption out of the bone!

The lady in question – as well as a couple of others who were in attendance – looked a little jubous at the prospect of sucking the sumption out of the hambone. I’d bet she’s also jubous about sucking crawdad heads, too.

Let me pause here to assure those editors who accuse me of making up words, to say that “Jubous” (ju-bus) is a word I’ve heard all my life, just like sumption, goozle, and giblets. It seems to be a word made by combining “dubious” with “judicious” and means just that: regarding something as less than likely or desirable. It gets the point across.

At any rate, don’t turn your nose up this Holiday Season if the gravy has giblets in it. Matter of fact, if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t trust it – be jubous about cooks who leave out the good parts simply because they ain’t situated on the outside.

If I had my druthers, I’d druther have gravy with a little sumption to it!


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