IDS 336 Food and Culture
29, November 2016
I chose Gumbo as my final presentation because it reminds me of my family. My mother is a beautiful creole-southern woman from Shreveport, Louisiana and this recipe is all about her culture and traditions. My family members from Louisiana began to migrate to California, landing in Oakland, San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles. They brought along with them their food, language, and traditions. They never denied their Creole style of living. That was a way to preserve the culture and pass it down to us, children. I am blessed to be one of them, my name is Dominique and this is my gumbo tradition. Every holiday my family and I decide when is the gumbo to be made, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Due to my new class about “Food and Culture”, this Thanksgiving was perfect for me.
“The word Gumbo comes from West Africa, in the Central Bantu dialect word for okra that was brought to colonial times by slaves.” (Vogt, 1) However, we don’t use okra in our gumbo, too slimy for me. There are two familiar gumbos, one made of seafood and the other made with chicken and sausage. “Gumbo is the mixture of many cultures that arrived in southern Louisiana. The cooking styles of the French, Spanish, Indigenous tribes (Choctaw, Alabama, & Cherokee), Africans, Italians and Germans.” (Wikipedia, Gumbo) All these races lived together in a small area in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They are not to be confused with Cajun people, Cajun people migrated from Arcadia, present day Nova Scotia in 1755. (Vogt, 1) Cajuns settled in the bayous and prairies south and west of New Orleans. “Gumbo was first documented around the 19th century, but the roux goes back as far as 1651. Francois Pierre La Varenne calls it a “thickening of flower”. (Wuerthner, 1) The base for gumbo is the Roux, equal part flour and equal part oil, browned in a cast iron skillet, until you smell nuts. The Holy Trinity is what we call the celery, bell pepper, onion and garlic vegetable mixture that goes into the roux once it’s ready was brought by the Spanish colonists.
On, Friday, November 18, 2016, my mom and I went to Sprouts market in Culver city, for 2lbs of raw, deveined shrimps, onions, celery, green peppers, fresh parsley, and a box of old bay seasoning. I love spending time with my mom, she is my comfort. It also helps that she is a very funny. I asked my mom who taught her how to make gumbo, she replied her Grandmother Rose and Uncle Bey cooked all the time. My youngest daughter was on vacation from school Thanksgiving week so I decided to take that week off work with her. My oldest daughter was only off work that coming Monday and Thursday, which meant Monday was our day together to get the live crabs.
We have been going to China town for our live dungeons crabs since I can remember. I never know the name of the fish market until this project, I only knew where it was. The fish market is called, “HOI YEUNG CO. 716 Broadway Ave. (figure Chinatown)”. We bought 4 live crabs at $7.99 lbs., which came up to $65.00 and a bag of king crab legs
for $74.00. It is very important that you know how fresh your seafood is and how they died. In Louisiana, seafood was cheap because people lived so close to the bayous and swamps, but in Los Angeles, seafood isn’t cheap, ouch. Yes, you guessed it, we are making seafood gumbo. Gumbo is a hearty seasoned soup or stew with meat and seafood, served over white rice that was able to feed a large amount of people. The seafood gumbo contains shrimp, crabs, andouille sausage, and sometimes oysters. The meat gumbo contains chicken, duck, squirrel, and sometimes rabbit. Our seafood gumbo consists of 3 whole crabs, crab legs, shrimp, beef sausages, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, the holy trinity, and around 16 herbs and spices. We don’t use tomatoes, okra or file seasoning in our gumbo. We are in the 99 percent of creole cooks, who wouldn’t be caught died adding these ingredients in our gumbo. File powder is a Choctaw spice made from dried and grounded sassafras leaves. (Moss, 1) File powder should be added per bowl per individuals’ taste preferences. Shopping for all the ingredients to make gumbo takes about a day or so. We were all tired after shopping so tomorrow would be the day to cook.
I woke up Tuesday morning, put the seasoned chicken thigh in the oven to bake and went to pick up my mother. We stopped at Dulan’s Soul food restaurant, on Century Blvd. to get something to eat while we cooked our gumbo.
The first step is to have a big pot of water to start the broth. To make seafood broth, we had 3 ½ lbs. of shrimp shells I have saved during the year, three live crabs, 3 bay leaves, 2 lemons, granular chicken bouillon seasoning and a bag of old bay (crab boil figure Seafood Broth). Next I start on the roux, one cup of flour and one cup of vegetable oil, slowly cooked in a cast oven skillet over medium heat. The roux must be stirred constantly so it doesn’t burn.
You should begin to see the color change from a yellow to tan and then brown, plus you will begin to smell nuts. While the seafood broth is simmering, I began to cut up the holy trinity vegetables (3 onions, 2 green bell peppers, 7 celery stalks, 2 bunches of parsley, 1 bunch of green onions and 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic) to put in my new food processor, thank god for this miracle machine (see figure Holy Trinity). As my mom and I watch taped TV shows, sip some wine and wipe our eyes from the smell of onion fumes. We laughed at the stories she tells about her childhood back in Louisiana. I remember when my mom used live blue crabs for the broth. They were fast and determined not to get in that hot boiling water. I learned early as a child not to be scared of the most delicious food in the world. I can breakdown a crab with my hand and not cuts.
Back to the cooking, I begin to smell the ocean and the spices released from the crab boil bag, fill my kitchen. Once the shrimp shells and crabs were an orange color, it was time to strain the broth, to remove the pieces of shrimp shells.
I removed the hot crabs and let them cool off before I can open them up. Once crabs are cool to touch, I open the crabs to add the juice, yellow liver and orange roes inside the head of the crab into the broth (see figure cool crabs). My mom calls this juice, the butter. I remove the spongy gills and tough bits of cartilages on the crabs’ body to discard and break the crab into pieces. The broth goes back on the stove along with all crab pieces and legs, shredded chicken thighs, chopped sausages, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce, all spices, roux and veggie mixture. After a couple of hours, the broth should resemble the green bayou swamp color. That is how I know if someone can really cook gumbo by the color of the broth and taste. Gumbo is cooked a minimum of three hours and simmers all-day. My mother got tired and called my dad to pick her up, but I have cooked gumbo before so it was in good hands. I occasionally would stir the gumbo and add seasons occurring to my memory taste buds. Once cooled off, I needed to skim the excess oil from the top of the soup, now it is perfect. The gumbo was finally done around 6pm, now I had to put it in storage containers to freeze and distribute to family members. The hot containers took another 3 hours to cool before they could be placed in the refrigerator and freezer. This pot filled up 9 containers of gumbo and 2 containers of broth. My mom has two, my mother in love has one, and I have the rest to share and freeze for later on. This recipe below is a smaller version of the one we made, my mom does not measure ingredients. She says when you know you just know, sorry guys.
This recipe is from a cookbook that all the members in my family have. The American Cooking! Creole and Acadian by Peter S. Feibleman and the Editors of Time-Life Books, published 1971. The recipe is called, “Crab, Shrimp and Okra Gumbo” but we crossed out Okra and wrote in Chicken. Over the years my family has added more and more ingredients and spices to make it our own but you can start here.
To make about 11 tablespoons
8 tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine the flour and oil in a heavy 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over a low heat and stirring constantly, simmer the roux slowly for 45 minutes to an hour. After 5 minutes the mixture will begin to foam. After about half an hour, the roux will begin to darken and have a faint nutty aroma. Continue to cook the roux until it the color you want tan to dark brown, then add in all your veggie from the holy trinity and stir all together. It should smell like seasoning you would use for dressing or stuffing. This brown roux serves as the base and thickening agent for bisques, gumbo, and other soups, as well as gravies and stews.
To serve 4
1 pound uncooked medium-sized shrimp (about 20 to 24)
7 quarts water
1 lemon, cut crosswise into ¼ inch-thick slices
3 bay leaves
1 box of crab boil in the bag
1 ½ teaspoons crumbled, dried thyme
2 tablespoon of chicken seasoning
Any kind of seasonings you like (seasoned salt garlic and onion powder, ground marjoram, lemon pepper, sage, oregano, tarragon, poultry seasoning, and paprika)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
10 live blue crabs or 3 dungeons crabs or crab legs (snow or king)
8 baked/seasoned chicken thighs (skin on or off) (bone in or out) or baked chicken wings
1 rope of sausage (beef, pork or turkey) sliced
4 tablespoons brown roux
½ cup coarsely chopped onions
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
¾ cup coarsely chopped green pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 bunch of fresh parsley coarsely chopped
2 stalks of chopped green onions
1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
4 to 6 cups freshly cooked long grain white rice
Shell the shrimp, buy them already deveined because that takes skill and practice. Save the shells and wash the shrimp off. In a 10 to 12 quart pot, bring to a boil, add the shrimp shells, lemon slices, seasonings, bay leaves, crab boil bag, and live crabs. When shrimp shells and crabs turn orange, take them out to cool and strain the broth to remove shells and discard bag of seasoning. Place strained broth back on the stove on low heat, stir in the roux –veggie mixture, drop the shrimp into the stock, drop cooked chicken thighs, and crab legs or broken down crabs. To break down whole crabs, shell them in the following way: Grasping the body of the crab, turn it over on its belly, you will see long piece you can pull down. Pull it down and where the shell starts, push your thumb in hold head down and pull up on the body, it should open like an oyster. Inside the head is juices and a yellow liver on both sides. Put that into the broth but not the white strings and white mush. Discard the gray featherlike gills and tough bits of cartilage. Break the body in half and then twist off legs. Put all the crab legs and white body part in the soup, discard head. Simmer for 2 hours, taste and stir, add extra seasoning if you chose. Skim off excess oil and serve with rice or French bread. The gumbo must be cooled before you place in fridge or freezer.
Dry, Stanley. A Short History of Gumbo https://www.southernfoodways.org/interview/a-short-history-of-gumbo/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Huntsman, Mark. Gumbo History https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/GumboHistory.htm. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Gumbo History! The Cajun and Creole influence! www.gumbocooking.com/gumbo-history.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Bhabha, Leah. The History of Gumbo4 Apr. 2014, https://food52.com/blog/10105-the-history-of-gumbo. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Romar,Megan.Gumbo,goneworleans.about.com/od/neworleansrecipes/fl/Gumbo.htm. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Gumbo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gumbo. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Gumbo Origin and History www.foodreference.com/html/artgumbo.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Vogt, Justin. Gumbo: The Mysterious History29 Dec. 2009, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/12/gumbo-the-mysterious-history/32659/. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Moss, Robert. The Real Story of Gumbo,Okra, and File, Glode Pequot, May 2015, www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/history-new-orleans-gumbo-okra-file-powder.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Wuerthner, Terri. Cajun Roux – What is it16 Nov. 2016, southernfood.about.com/od/saucesandseasonings/a/roux-recipes.htm. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
Feibleman, Peter S. The American Cooking- Creole and Acadian. Time-Life Books, 1971.