Brown, Marion Lea. “Southern Fried Steak with Gravy (Grillades with Gravy).” In The Southern Cook Book, 86. Chapel Hill, NC: University Of North Carolina Press, 1951.


A Recipe from Marion Brown’s The Southern Cook Book for Southern Fried Steak with Gravy

This is a recipe from Marion Lea Brown’s The Southern Cook Book for a Southern Fried steak. The Southern Cook Book was published in 1951 in Chapel Hill by the University of North Carolina press. The Brown’s main goal was to “produce a book from which one may prepare a complete meal in the true Southern manner [1]” rather than attempt to delineate a singular Southern cuisine as she believes “[it] cannot be rigidly defined [1].” Brown sources almost all of the recipes in the books to different people from across the South. These people range from renown chefs to common people sharing their precious recipes with her. This recipe for Southern Fried Steak, however, isn’t sourced to anyone else, so it reasonable to believe it’s one of Brown’s own recipes.

Brown’s recipe starts off by saying, “The fried griddle is one of the earliest ways of cooking steak, Southern style.” By stating this, Brown gives her reason for including the recipe in the book and describes the dish’s place within Southern cuisine. She directly follows this statement with a description of the flavors and variations of the dish. Brown then lists the ingredients that will be needed for the recipe. One ingredient to note is Kitchen Bouquet, which is used as part of the gravy seasoning. Kitchen Bouquet is a branded, bottled cooking condiment [2]. Its use in this recipe shows the growing uniformity of ingredients within the South in the mid 1900’s. In earlier time periods, it would’ve been hard to include such an ingredient in a recipe because it might not have been easily available for many people in both Chapel Hill and the South as a whole. By the 1950’s, however, sauces, seasonings, and other cooking ingredients were readily accessible enough across the South to ensure that placing such an ingredient in a recipe wouldn’t make it difficult for others to prepare the dish.

Following the list of ingredients is a set of instructions for how to go about preparing the dish. One interesting substitution was if one is lacking a meat malate, as some lower income people might, Brown suggests to instead tenderize the meat by beating it with the edge of a plate. This is a strange image as one would image the plate shattering into the meat and an abrupt change in dinner plans would most likely having to occur. Brown continues with the instructions for preparing the dish and then finishes the recipe by saying to simply add tomato juice or a can of tomatoes into the gravy to achieve a tomato sauce gravy.

This recipe shows the unification of Chapel Hill and the South as a whole in both an ideological sense, through the standardizing the way of preparing a dish in a “true Southern manner [1],” and a physical sense, through the increased accessibility to a more diverse set of ingredients. This uniformity of Southern food parallels the growing uniformity in culture and ideology in the US during and following WWII. During this time, the US government wanted to strengthen the national identity and increase patriotic sentiment towards the war and foreign affairs as a whole and part of this was unifying food and food procurement.

Nick Anixter


[1] Brown. “Preface.” The Southern Cook Book, v-vii.

[2] Green, Denzil. “Kitchen Bouquet.” Cook’s Info.