Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook features four gumbo recipes for the home gourmet to prepare. In the book, it's stated on page 110 that "The chances of two Louisiana cooks coming up with gumbos that are exactly alike are about the same as the New Orleans Saints football team winning two Super Bowls in succession." Its a wonderful recipe that allows for adaptation and improvisation, permitting the cook to use virtually any kind of meat or seafood in its preparation. Mark W. Huntsman states that written reference has been found where owl, muskrat and even squirrel has been used in gumbo.
Both Ralph Brennan and Huntsman contends that the dish is of West African descent. Huntsman states:
Although the French contributed the concept of the roux and the Choctaw invented filé powder, the modern soup is overwhelmingly West African in character. Not only does it resemble many of the okra-based soups found in contemporary Senegal, the name of the soup its self is derived from the Bantu words for the okra contained within (guingombo, tchingombo, or kingombo. A legacy of the colonial era, the modern French word for okra is quite simply “gombo”).Gumbo is in fact named for one of its principle ingredients, okra. The Food Reference Website explains that the word is Bantu in origin and is in fact one of the few words that have entered the English language via the transmission of the African slave population. Ralph Brennan states in his cookbook that the recipe has been around over 200 years. According to Stanley Dry, Dr. Carl A. Brasseaux of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette discovered the first written reference to gumbo in 1803 in New Orleans. The dish was prepared for a gubernatorial reception.
Dry probably captures gumbo's appeal for cooks best when he states that, "part of Gumbo's virtue, apart from its deliciousness, is that the dish is very forgiving of the cook. . . ingredients may be changed to use what is on hand."
SOURCE: "History of Gumbo"
SOURCE: "A Short History of Gumbo"
Photo by Kerri McCaffety. Copyright by The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.