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Let the Good Gumbo Roll!

Here's looking at you, gumbo!

The hubs will tell you that the rice should be on the side, but that this is better than on the bottom or—crime!—mixed into the gumbo. Lol 

What is gumbo you ask? 

Gumbo is a real melting pot of a dish that has been devoured by people in Louisiana for about 300 years. You can learn about the history and culture of New Orleans and southern Louisiana by looking at a steaming bowl of spicy, saucy gumbo. 

Its assorted ingredients are as diverse as the people who settled in Louisiana. Basically, gumbo is a soup or stew with protein: chicken, sausage or seafood. 

For example, in the prairie regions of southwestern Louisiana, poultry-based gumbos prevailed with hens, roosters, guineas from the farm, or by hunting duck and geese. Also, they used sausage—either smoked or fresh, depending on local traditions. 

However, along the waterways and the Louisiana Coast, you’d find gumbo made with seafood like oysters, crabs, and shrimp. Seafood gumbo frequently included okra and tomatoes. 

Also, gumbo was thickened by either a roux, okra, or filé.  

French – Creoles brought French cooking techniques to gumbo. The roux, the base of most gumbo dishes, is made of a simmered mixture of fat and flour that serves as a thickening agent common in French preparations.

Creole refers to a mix of French, Spanish, African and Native American, and reflects the early European influence in Louisiana. Founded by the French in 1718, it was later ceded to Spain, returned to France, and then sold to the United States in 1803.

African – The name gumbo is derived from kingombo, the word for okra in the Central Bantu dialect of West Africa. Beginning in 1719, both okra and the Bambara arrived in Louisiana due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Within two years, over half of the population were African slaves. And okra is the main thickening agent in most (though not all) varieties of gumbo. Gumbo’s African origins go beyond okra, stews served with rice were one of the main foods the African slaves ate. 

Cajun – The word is a distortion of Acadian. In 1755, the British conquered French Canada and expelled the Acadian settlers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Many of these Acadians settled in the swamps and bayou country south and west of New Orleans. Their cooking is country-style with a little bit of everything thrown into the pot. After the Creoles of New Orleans introduced them to gumbo, they made some changes to the dish. They created their roux from oil, not butter; pork sausage, wild game, and red pepper sauce. No self-respecting Cajun would ever use tomatoes in gumbo. Cajun gumbo is flavored with the “holy trinity”—onion, celery, and bell pepper.

Native American – Okra wasn’t always available, but the settlers found that it was easily replaceable. Native Americans taught them how to use ground sassafras leaves (filé) as a seasoning and as a thickener in place of okra. Choctaw Indians were the first to introduce filé powder as an ingredient in soups and stews. So, that’s how we got Filé Gumbo. We all know that song, “Jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo.”

Later, Germans, Italians, and Caribbean immigrants also contributed to this diverse dish. German communities in Louisiana traditionally prepared this gumbo on Holy Thursday to commemorate Jesus’ last supper.

I wish I could add the taste and smell of a good gumbo to this post because my mouth is watering just remembering. If you haven’t tasted good gumbo yet, that is my holiday season wish for you!

Let the good gumbo roll!

Perilously yours,

Pauline

P.S. Just four days until the release of Worry Beads: The Big Uneasy 4!

Worry Beads cover art

Releasing Dec 1! Click on the cover to preorder now!

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