New Orleans Gumbo – A Six Part Series
To read the other parts of this series, click here.
This hearty and flavorful bowl of soup is one dish that hits near to the hearts of those who reside in New Orleans. Not only is this food item an important staple in many homes of Louisiana, it is one that epitomizes the state’s cuisine as a whole. This enduring dish serves as a time machine to transport an individual back to the beginning of the cuisine’s existence. Exhibiting many diverse cultural influences, this dish provides an excellent example of the cultural melting pot of New Orleans. Evident in almost all of the city’s cuisine, the cooking traditions of those that immigrated fused together with the creation of what is known as one of the unique cuisines in America – the Creole Cuisine. This five-part series will focus on the histories and influences of the French, African, Spanish and German cultures, as well as particular ingredients, on the celebrated evolution of the Creole cuisine.
This sixth part concludes the series.
On the last night of our trip, we had the opportunity to have one more New Orleans dinner out on the town. As soon as we were seated, we were given a menu with a great number of options – most of which were fish dishes. Reading over the menu, I quickly spotted exactly what I wanted to get, the Gumbo. There is no way I could have traveled to New Orleans without trying the most emblematic dish of both the Creole and Cajun cuisine. The aroma that emanated into the air as the waiter placed the giant bowl in front of me was indescribable. Let’s just say that I could no longer wait to dip my spoon into the steaming stew. The luscious red-brown color and thick texture gave me a hint as to what this rustic stew was going to taste like. Just as I suspected, the soup was compacted with rich flavors – the smokiness of the sausage and chicken, the slight sweetness of the pepper, celery and onion, and the zing of the spices. As I take my first mouthful, the thick, velvet-like broth perfectly accompanied the crunch of the vegetable and the tenderness of the meat. It only gets better when you mix in the fluffy white rice piled atop the stew – the rice not only absorbs any flavor hugging it, it is just the thing needed to combine all the wonderful textures. Beyond this, it is honestly very difficult to describe my experience. Because Gumbo is such a unique taste, the only way an individual will ever understand how it tastes is to try it himself. I can amiably say, however, that the dish satisfyingly lives up to its reputation. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite dishes I have tried in New Orleans. Gumbo is truly symbolic to what Creole cuisine stands for – one of the most unique cuisines in the world.
The Creole cuisine is unequivocally the melting pot of a great number of cultures. Not only does the cuisine exhibit a heavy French and African culinary influence, but it also celebrates the cookeries of Spain and Germany. It is important, however, for one to be aware of the fact that the cultural influences are not limited to these few. In fact, the Creole cuisine has been known to incorporate the traditional tastes of Italians, Native Americans, Portuguese, and the many cultures of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, these culinary inspirations, as well as those of others, are extremely difficult to recount due to the lack of literature and resources. This aside, it is crucial for one to understand that the influences discussed in this paper are not necessarily restricted to the given cultural cookery. In other words, several of the dishes mentioned can have multiple origins and, therefore, cultural flare. With this, it is apparent that the Creole cuisine, while inimitable and innovative in its nature, is extremely complex and difficult to accurately define. All things considered, Creole cuisine is unquestionably the “melting pot”of the culinary world!