It's officially the time of year when the US recognizes the accomplishments of African Americans of the past and present. I tend to recognize this every month, with pride and unapologetically loud banter on my social media accounts. So, in the spirit of the official start of BHM, I would like to recognize our sister, Gumbo. Yes, I said sister. Sassy, spicy, satisfying Sistah Gumbo, with her rich, full bodied style, flavored with her own mix of this and that, and a bit of "can't tell me nothin" sauce. Yeah, Gumbo, like so many of us, has her own style, and twist, and can't be defined in one particular way, but in so many varieties, depending on where she's from, and where she's been, and what her mood is of the day.
How did Sis Gumbo make it to the party of fabulous soul food? Let the legends tell it, from Slavery. But hasn't everything come from the labor of enslaved people out of necessity? Gumbo is an adaptation of a traditional West African Stew. The traditional version of Gumbo made it from the bows of Slave ships into the homes of Slave owners, eventually crossing into European countries and cultures. From the land of our ancestors, Africans were able to produce one of the riches, most admired dish we still enjoy today.
Today Gumbo crosses over many plates from the wealthiest to those that are making ends meet. Folks celebrate family with a rich dish of Gumbo, only their Grandma-(Big mama) knows how to make it. "Ain't no one make Gumbo like big mama". So the big argument is what is real Gumbo. Let people from Louisiana tell it, its only made perfect in the heart of the south, Louisiana...let others tell it, can't NO ONE in California make it. Gumbo is a rich mixture of many different meats and, (or), seafoods. One item all Gumbos must have is FLAVOR!
Gumbo Stew is made from scraps of items to be shared with a large group of people and, back in the harsh old days of slavery, had to fill the belly of Slaves so they could survive the torturous labor of work the next day. It was cheap and could feed many.
Seafood Gumbo, is the most common dish, made with Oysters, Crab, Shrimp, Lobster, (whatever was caught that day), herbs and a great dark roux. Then there is Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, made the same, rich, flavorful, loaded with natural herbs, Cajun spices, and okra. Okra and I are not friends. I choose to use filet' to thicken my stew but traditionally YOU MUST USE OKRA, (side note, yuck). And if you are feeling really festive a Gumbo made with all the meats and seafoods served atop a bead of sticky rice and a side of cornbread or sourdough bread is the way to go. That's it, no need to add any fancy side dish, Sistah Gumbo is all you need to make you smile with complete satisfaction and put your butt right to sleep.
So Happy Black History Month Sistah Gumbo. I'm sure with crab season here, Mardi Gras right around the corner, and plenty of people growing restless from quarantine, our Sis Gumbo will be invited to a lot of parties.