Did you know that today is National Gumbo Day? In honor of Louisiana’s official state cuisine, we will go into a brief history of the dish and then give a reading list fit for gumbo lovers.
Louisiana culture has always been a mixing pot of the different people and cultures that populate our state, and our food is no different. That means that the exact origins of gumbo and the evolution is hard to nail down. Despite not knowing the exact origins, the dish combines the ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African and Choctaw.
According to Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the earliest documented references to gumbo appeared around the beginning of the 19th century. For example, in 1803, gumbo was served at the state governor reception in New Orleans. It was also served in 1804 at a Cajun gathering on the Acadian Coast, in the area along the Mississippi River settled by the Acadians.
Today, when most people think of gumbo, they think of two kinds— chicken and sausage or seafood. However, that’s just the beginning of the types of gumbo. Lafcadio Hearn’s La Cuisine Creole, published in 1885, contains recipes for several gumbos made from a variety of different things like ham, bacon and beef. Another book published in 1885 by the Christian Woman’s Exchange, The Creole Cookery Book, says that a New Orleans gumbo, “can be made of scraps or cold meat or fowl, a few oysters, crabs or shrimps, and with a couple of spoonful’s of well cooked rice.” Published in 1901 in New Orleans, The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook, offers a wide variety of gumbo recipes with ingredients like ham, turkey, wild turkey, squirrel, rabbit, beef, veal, greens, and cabbage.
Though many of the ingredients are in gumbo vary from recipe to recipe, the one ingredient that everyone can agree on is rice. Right? Well that was not always the case. In the early 1800s, a Frenchman, C.C. Robin, published a report on his 1803-1805 travels around Louisiana and he wrote that gumbo was served with corn meal mush.
Despite all of the variations in gumbo and the debates on who has the best, we can all agree that we love gumbo. Here’s a reading list fit for the gumbo lover in all of us.
A reading list for all the gumbo lovers out there.