Today we are going to have a series of guest lecturers. This is a trick I learned from teachers. Whenever they run out of new things to say, or can't crank up enough enthusiasm to restate what they have said so many times before, they invite colleagues to lecture.

While this column has rarely been accused of being "educational," there are certain parallels with the classroom situation. Namely the audience is expecting to hear something, the usual speaker has nothing to offer, and there are lots of folks, gassed up and ready to go, waiting in the wings.

So let's get to them. The topics covered will be gravy making, soy sauce, onions, and if there is room, a somewhat poetic attempt at singing the praises of spices.

Key to good gravy: spud water

From: Olive D. McMonegal, Baltimore

Re: Column stating resolution to learn how to make good gravy.

Dear Happy Eater,

My mother always made excellent gravy by scraping the hot pan drippings, and using potato water from our cooked potatoes. Then she mixed flour and water to a nice smooth consistency, not too runny. And she slowly added this to the pan.

It will never get lumpy, but you must stay right there stirring until it reaches the thickness you want.

I have been asked many times to make the gravy at the homes of our children and our friends. It has never failed. Forget about adding any spices or sauces.

Key to good gravy: Nuke it

From: Mrs. Stanley Greenbaum, Baltimore

Dear Happy Eater,

To make good gravy, first in a 4-cup container put in 1 1/2 cups of broth (beef, turkey, chicken).

Add 1 teaspoon of beef or chicken granules. With a wire whisk, stir in 1/3 cup flour until smooth.

Blend in 1/2 cup drippings (from chicken, turkey, beef) into flour mixture.

Microwave on high, 4 to 6 minutes, until thick, stirring twice. Season with salt and pepper. You can also add cooked (by microwave) giblets. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Eater replies: I grew up in a family that believed in the spud-water method of gravy making. The secret seems to be in " getting that flour and water mixture to marry with the pan drippings.

Whenever I try, instead of a marriage there is a divorce. Maybe I will nuke them together next time.

There's soy sauce in Wheaton

From: Nona Nielsen-Parker, Baltimore

Re: Column on buying a case of Indonesian soy sauce

Dear Happy Eater,

I am a caterer and have been cooking with Asian ingredients for many years, including ketjap manis.

My point is that $36 for six 16-ounce bottles is a bit stiff. I travel to Wheaton, to a place called Asia Foods. They carry a 625-milliliter bottle for about $2 and a 325-milliliter bottle for about $1.40. It is worth the trip. The store is clean, bright and packed full of items not found in Baltimore.

Eater replies: I have been to Wheaton; I used to buy mochchocolate buttercream cake from Van Toll bakery near the intersection of Georgia and University (retail open only on weekends). Now you have given me another reason to return.

Texans are uncommon onion eaters

From: Honey Lee, Matagorda, Texas

Re: Column complaining I had surplus of Vidalia onions

Dear Happy Eater,

Haven't you heard about Texas 1015 onions? They rival Vidalian onions from Georgia in their sweet taste. People here don't buy them like they do "common" onions. There is as much difference between the 1015s and the common onions as there is between night and day.

If you lived in Texas you could just give your extra onions to any Texan and he would rush home and make a sandwich with them.

Eater replies: I have always heard that could you smell a Texan coming. I thought the saying meant that you'd smell the barbecue sauce on a Texan before you'd see them. But maybe the real perfume of the Lone Star State is the aroma of onions.

Poetry blooms in Randallstown, sorta

From: Jack Meckler.

Re: Column saying I was not going to read more than one this-food-can-kill story per week.

Dear Happy Eater,

I heartily agreed with you. In fact the recent article about a study linking red meat to colon cancer led me to write the following:

Now there's a beef about beef.

If you eat red meat, are you dead meat?

Alas, salt has its fault.

There's an odium about sodium.

But so far as I know, herbs have no curbs.

Spices have no vices.

Eater replies: Class dismissed.

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