Sunday, December 3, 2023

Featured Oral History Project: Southern Gumbo Trail

southern-gumbo-trail-home_enterWhen the temperature drops, a steaming bowl of gumbo is a great way to stay warm. That’s why we’ve chosen our Southern Gumbo Trail as this week’s featured oral history project.

This dish, inextricably tied to New Orleans, is a tradition in homes and cafés throughout the South. When origins are discussed, however, conversations get heated.

Gumbo Z’herbes from Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans.
Gumbo Z’herbes from Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans.

Gumbo. So many versions, so many cooks, so many contradictions. Such as: Only use a roux with poultry, filé with seafood. Use okra in the summer, filé in the winter. You have to have a chaurice in your gumbo. You must use andouille.

Rather than establish origins, the Southern Gumbo Trail seeks to collect stories about gumbo—the varied styles, traditions, and tastes. We share tales of okra-only gumbo, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, turtle gumbo, and green gumbo, too.

For every different style of gumbo there is a different story. Oral history interviews with cooks and purveyors across the South reveal the various ways in which gumbo recipes have been acquired and how they have evolved, helping to explain the importance—and persistence—of the South’s gumbo tradition.

Click here to explore all of the interviews and extras on the Gumbo Trail, including recipes and pointers on making the perfect roux. Grab a spoon and go!

Sarah Camp Arnold, Southern Foodway’s Alliance