One of the food’s greatest traits is it’s ability to really define a region. Globally, we all know that foods are segregated into different nationalities, ie Chinese food, Italian food, Japanese food, etc. However, we can easily drill that down further into regional specialties. In America, the south has a very distinct style of cooking. While many southern specialties feature fried items like catfish or chicken, Louisiana is home to several “one pot” dishes, and if you had to choose just one dish to represent Louisiana, gumbo is it.
Gumbo represents Lousiana because it’s a true byproduct of the region’s ethnic roots. The basics of the dish are French in origin, however the use of the holy trinity is Spanish, and the file powder is the result of the region’s native American roots. Nobody is sure exactly when gumbo was invented, but the best guess is late 18th century. Over the years, the dish has transformed from a simple dish designed to be hearty and filling on the cheap, to something that is beloved by many, and is definitely quite delicious.
At it’s simplest, gumbo is a meat item, a thickener, and the “holy trinity” – celery, bell peppers, and onions. However, you’ll find countless versions of gumbo across the southern states. Some of the more common meat ingredients found in gumbo are andouille sausage (a classic), chicken thighs, shrimp, and crab. Some of the more exotic restaurants (and homes) even serve rabbit and squirrel gumbo! The thickener is usually okra or file powder, which is then combined with a roux. The concoction is simmered over low heat for hours, and the final product is easily greater than the sum of it’s parts.
If you were to travel the United States and had to write down things to eat, gumbo in Louisiana would have to be on there.
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