Originating in southern Louisiana during the 18th century, Gumbo is a dish that typically consists of a strongly flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener and seasoned vegetables which may include celery, bell peppers and onions, known in Cajun cuisine as the “holy trinity”. The dish is commonly served over rice. Gumbo arose from a West African word for okra, which many believe is how the name and the ingredient got intertwined.
Last March my husband and I went on a bucket list trip to New Orleans, the French Quarter to be more precise. We stayed right on Bourbon Street and it was worth every penny. Our first night there, after traveling all day, we just wanted our first Hurricane (rum drink) and some dinner. We chose a bar restaurant that didn’t have a line, The Cornet. Our dinner was good and we enjoyed the bartender and watching the crowds.
A few nights later we went back to the same place. When I ordered Okra Stew the same bartender put her elbow on the bar, leaned toward me and said, “Honey, I know you aren’t southern. Do you know what that is?”
I laughed then replied, “Yes, I know okra is slimy.”
She got a big grin on her face and whispered, “I wanted to check, the cooks hate it when I bring it back.”
We had a good laugh and I ate every bit of it, along with the best corn bread of the week. My husband had a traditional gumbo made with chorizo sausage and ate all of his too. I didn’t know at the time that gumbo is an African word for okra and now I’ve heard that information twice in one week from different sources.
Someone recently asked me to describe okra. I said it’s sort of like asparagus, but milder and slimy, even when you cut it. I have had some deep-fried that wasn’t slimy, but then it hardly had any taste left. I’ll take mine fresh please. The dish above looks like the gumbo I ate our first night of a memorable trip.