What is Gumbo? A Louisiana Favorite

Gumbo pic
Gumbo
Image: allrecipes.com

Jason Cobb, an IT professional in California, enjoys cooking for himself and others. When he has the time, Jason Cobb favors California cuisine and Creole food, and especially likes to cook gumbo.

Gumbo, a Creole dish similar to stew, endures as one of Louisiana’s most popular dishes. Gumbo brings together numerous culinary traditions, drawing its name from a West African word for okra, its use of dried and ground sassafras from local native tribes, and its use of roux from French cooking. Its first documented appearance dates back more than 200 years.

Chefs categorize gumbos by their thickening agent. Some use dried sassafras, while others use okra. Before the advent of refrigeration, chefs dried okra so they could use it in gumbo after it was no longer in season.

Finding a common trait in gumbo besides the use of one of these two thickening agents proves difficult. Some chefs prefer the roux light and thin, while others look for a thick, dark, hearty roux comparable to rice and gravy dishes. The protein in gumbo varies depending on what a chef has access to, and it sometimes includes shellfish, crab, game birds, beef, or chicken. This wide diversity makes gumbo a forgiving dish to make, and each chef’s gumbo expresses a unique sensibility.

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