People have been cooking meats in various sauces and stocks from very ancient times. Why? The liquid acted as a cooking medium, made tough meat more palatable, and added flavor to the dish. Gravies evolved over time according to ingredient availabilty, local tastes, and traditional cuisine. Some are composed of meat drippings, others from creamy components. Today, gravies are typically used as a cooking medium, thickening agent, and topping. There are hundreds of recipes.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the English word “gravy” is obscure in origin. It is most likely derived from the Old French word “grane.” The earliest printed evidence of this word in our language from the Forme of Curry, an English cookbook circa 1390.