Friday, March 30, 2012

Gumbo, a history. ( music!)

So I struggled quite a bit to find a topic to discuss for this post…. (ahem ahem - you should listen to this while you read- ZYDECO MUSIC - listen to meeee!  zydeco was another really awesome option I was thinking about writing on) 
ANYWAYS there are actually so many awesomely unique and interesting things going on in Louisiana and New Orleans specifically. Like many places New Orleans is home to a diverse array of cultural lineages. Unlike many places in the U.S. however, the inception of Louisiana was a process of shaping and being shaped by an interesting compilation of motley forces. As we saw in our readings it passed through ‘ownership’, from the French to the Spanish to the French to the U.S., and Haitians, American Indians and both free and enslaved Africans intermingled and infused their own cultures with European ones.  French-Spanish influenced Creole and Acadian-influenced Cajun cultures flourished and fused as they developed within. One interesting way to examine the motley influences of New Orleans and Louisiana is through cuisine. I hope everyone reading likes gumbo!!
There’s a ridiculously huge discrepancy over whether Gumbo is Cajun or Creole, for safety purposes lets just say Gumbo is a Louisiana originated dish and a VERY INTERESTING one at that. With a good recipe and an imaginative mind you can actually see the history of Louisiana right there in the pot.  

As a matter of fact that’s just what this site did, if you go and click around you’ll see just how incredibly diverse each ingredient is.

             Most people seem to agree that the word Gumbo derives its origin from the vegetable kimgombo (okra) brought over by West African slaves. Most also agree that if you want a more 'traditional' Gumbo you should serve it over rice and make sure to stick to the “holy trinity” of Louisiana cuisine (and thus both Creole and Cajun cuisine) using equal parts bell pepper, celery, and onion…also interchangeable with garlic parsley or shallots. But really none of these are rules they’re more guidelines... Whether you use Andouille sausage brought by the Germans, the hot peppers brought back after the Mexican-American war, the French-peasant roux mixture, sassafras introduced by American Indians or crawfish that are abundant in the costal waters of the Mexican Gulf, you still end up with Gumbo. In this way this dish is a lot like Louisiana, not comprised of strict rules or origins just guidelines! In other words you can make it the experience you want because there are so many experiences to choose from. In my opinion the best Gumbo recipes use a little bit of everything!! (If I’m being 100% honest I’d keep spiciness to a minimum because I’m kind of a wimp in that area.)

             Throughout time and space mealtimes serve an important function; food is not only a physical form of sustenance but also a social one. To put this a little differently, we gather around food to nourish our bodies and our souls! It seems safe to say that this remains true for New Orleans where pretty much everyone agrees that they love the food. Gumbo gives us a particularly nice vantage point to examine the social side of Louisiana food, and New Orleans itself. From its inception no one group clearly claimed cultural authority within Louisiana. Like the people of Louisiana the ingredients of Gumbo are diverse and ever changing.  With this diversity in mind, Gumbo (Louisiana cuisine in general) reminds me a lot of the origins of Jazz, the origins of New Orleans readings, and of the picture we’ve been looking at in class perceiving race in a multi-faceted way. When we look at Jazz or Gumbo we must erase differences to some degree in order to fully understand and appreciate the multiple and interdependent elements comprised within.  The ‘recipes’ of cultures in Louisiana are full examples where seemingly disparate traditions/ingredients come together and create something completely new and wonderful, like Gumbo or the Mardi Gras Indians! Today inhabitants continue to change and create Gumbo recipes that include new diverse ingredients, this reflects the essence of New Orleans, where the people shape the culture of New Orleans as much as they are shaped by it. 

---another possibile topic was death and cemeteries in New Orleans, you all know the history of flooding and such...ya that really makes burying people problematic because the coffins actually just float up. awk. anyways if you haven't checked that out or are still looking for something to write on it's really an interesting subject (+ the folklore that comes surrounding this unique process)!  

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