From 1390 to 1508, gravy described a dressing for meat, fish, or vegetables that consisted of broth, milk of almonds, spices, and wine or ale.
From 1598 on, it acquired the sense with which we are familiar: take the fat and juices from the bottom of the baking pan, add condiments and perhaps broth, and thicken with a flour or cornstarch.
Somewhere around World War I, gravy train started appearing as a metaphor for easy financial success. That puts it roughly in the same kitchen as icing on the cake.
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Labels: gravy train