Thursday, January 3, 2008
New Years Day 2008 Gumbo
New Years Day was a great day even though it was a rather cold day. I stayed inside most of the day lounging, looking at football games and preparing and feasting on my annual pot of Gumbo.
As a Louisiana born girl, New Years Day would not be the same without it. As well, I feel by preparing and eating it, I am giving tribute to my ancestors and distant homeland.
Afterall, Gumbo or a variation there of is said to have originated in Africa. In fact, the word Gumbo or quingumbo or kingumbo means okra in the Bantu language which is the main ingredient in traditional Louisiana Gumbo. While the word, okra or okuru itself comes from the Nigerian dialect and means none other than okra. It is believed that either the slaves smuggled it over when they were brought to the U.S. or the slave smugglers to provide food for their captives since it was easy to grow and a few seeds produced many crops. Prior to the importation of slaves to the Americas, okra was not found in those regions. Rather, it was found only Africa in
12th century Egypt, Ethiopia and other african countries.
As many of you may know, there is an ongoing debate as to whether the dish, Gumbo can actually be called as such with the inclusion of okra. Some don't like it and exclude it because of its sometimes slimy quality. I am not one of the folks. My Gumbo has to okra. Maybe because I stir-fry my okra first prior to adding it last in the dish which is essential to prevent the slim and the seeds from ruining the dish.
Another prime ingredient in Gumbo is file of gumbo which was a gift from the native Louisiana indians and is made from ground sassafrass leaves. It has a kind of musky taste and lends to the dish that "downhome funk." This is also an essential item in my Gumbo but must also be added last or can have diastrous results.
Be that as it may. I respect those who have strayed from the traditional Gumbo and revised it to fit their own tastebuds.
But as for me, "It aint't Gumbo, unless it has okra!"