Gumbo, a local dish with a complex origin

Photo: KLFY
Photo: KLFY

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)—When you hear the word gumbo, you automatically think Louisiana. Everybody has eaten a bowl or two in their lifetime, but how did gumbo end up being the signature food for Louisiana? It’s a story that goes back many years.

KLFY recently sat down with ULL Professor Barry Ancelet who takes us back to the inception of when gumbo became a staple meal in South Louisiana.

“Gumbo is a perfect metaphor for everything that South Louisiana culture is all about.” Said Ancelet, “It’s the perfect creolization of everything. A fusion of African and European culture producing something new. A lot of the terms and strategies come from Europe and Africa but you don’t find gumbo in Europe or Africa. The combination of those influences only happened here.”

In search of a great bowl, KLFY’s Jeff Horchak hit up a few local gumbo cook-offs and talked to some cooks to get their secrets on how they cook their version of the dish.

First stop, we interviewed John Dunston and asked if they key was in the roux.

“It is the base it’s the start of it,” said Dunston, “if you don’t have a good gumbo you don’t have a good gumbo.”

When asked if the chicks have to be dead Dunston replied, “Absolutely, if they are not, they run and it makes it tough and they have to be plucked.”

According to Brasseaux, it’s South of I-10 where the real gumbo is made. “Start with a little flour and you take it from there.”

“My grandmother said find something that makes you different,” added Posey, “most people pick one thing to tweak and tweak it to perfection. Smoke sausage is what I use to make my flavors.”

Breaux said there’s a certain favor he looks for, “I like to get it just right. I like people to taste that finish and taste that seasoning.”

So next time you eat a great bowl of gumbo, you will know exactly how this Louisiana dish came to be.

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