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Green gravy story

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of the Block O Booster Club Green Gravy Night on Friday “The Journal” offers a tribute written by staff writer Benny Fairchild in 2010. Like green gravy the story stands the test of time and good taste.

By BENNY FAIRCHILD

While Buffalo is known for chicken wings and Philadelphia is known for cheese steaks, Ogdensburg - and, more specifically, its school cafeterias - is known for something that you can’t find anywhere else: green gravy.

For as long as anyone can remember, students and teachers of the district have enjoyed hot turkey sandwiches or other entrees with a gravy whose color could be best described as a cross between antifreeze and pea soup.

But don’t let the color fool you. Green gravy is something that many students and alumni say they could eat until they’re blue in the face.

The school district’s food services manager, Brian R. Mitchell, said that adult lunch sales triple when meals are served with green gravy.

“I think it’s because they love it and they can’t get it anywhere else,” he said.

Mr. Mitchell said it’s not unusual to see parents coming to the school to have lunch with their child. On Thursday, Ty Smith did just that - and it brought back memories.

“I did eat it when I was younger,” he said, as he sat at the lunch table with his son, Andrew, and some of his friends.

While not disclosing the recipe, Mr. Mitchell said the secret to the green gravy is the chicken base that the school’s chefs use.

“Basically it’s a mixture between the base and margarine,” he said.

In fact, when Mr. Mitchell was hired by the district, then-Superintendent Maurice H. Barry jokingly told him, “I want you to run the cafeteria. It’s your department, but if you get rid of the green gravy, you’re fired.”

But for Mr. Mitchell, who graduated from Ogdensburg Free Academy in 1991, the thought of eliminating green gravy never crossed his mind.

“It was definitely one of my favorite meals,” he said, adding that the gravy is typically served with hot turkey sandwiches, as it was on Thursday, or with mashed potatoes as a side to accompany breaded chicken or popcorn chicken.

One day this summer, green gravy was even served with pizza and chicken wings.

But where did the name “green gravy” come from? That’s a mystery that may never be solved, but OFA Cook Manager Rose A. Sovie said she first heard it referred to as green gravy more than 30 years ago, while she was working in the cafeteria at Sherman Elementary School.

“The little ones would come through the line and I would ask them if they wanted gravy on their potatoes” she recalled, adding that one day a young student said, “It’s green gravy.”

“I think other people heard and it kind of took off from there,” she said, adding, that it’s not unusual to have seniors request something with green gravy for their last meal.

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