Yesterday, while gathering my ingredients for my Thanksgiving feast, I grabbed a bottle (now plastic!) of Kitchen Bouquet. When I was growing up, every home cook kept a bottle in the pantry. My mother used it in her beef stroganoff and Salisbury steak. Kitchen Bouquet is classified as a seasoning, but the main function is to add color to sauces and gravies. When I was a caterer, I called it “makeup for meat.” I brushed many proteins with this magical caramel-based sauce to give them a glow.
I learned to cook in the 70s under the tutelage of a chef who went by one name: Harrison. He ran the kitchen at the Driskill Hotel in Austin for many years. Harrison kept gallons of Kitchen Bouquet in the pantry. My 42-year-old copy of Joy of Cooking is stained with drops of Kitchen Bouquet. So is my Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Yes, I used Kitchen Bouquet to make Julia’s coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon. Sacre bleu!
Tomorrow I will be comforted by my bottle of Kitchen Bouquet. I will think of my mother, my grandmother, and Harrison as I watch the dark liquid swirl around the turkey pan drippings until a deep brown gravy emerges. I will sit at the table and watch my family eat my feast. For one afternoon, I’ll be at peace.