Gumbo: What is it & How to Make it

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What is Gumbo?

Gumbo is a type of spicy stew typical of Louisiana. It is a staple that is cooked up in big cast iron pots and stirred with large wooden spoons—or boat oars, depending on how many people are going to be fed. The dish consists of two basic ingredients: broth and rice. While this may sound boring and limited, gumbo is actually a dish with an extremely large variety of flavors and consistencies, depending on how the broth (or roux) is made. Variations of the roux-based soup include chicken and smoked sausage, shrimp and okra, wild duck and smoked sausage, even rabbit or seafood gumbo with shrimp, crab, and oysters.

The rice used in gumbo is prepared separately and only added to the dish at the time of serving. Gumbo is consumed primarily during winter months because its hearty consistency makes it a great choice for cold days. Also, the dish requires a long cooking time, as the broth must be left to simmer for hours to achieve the appropriate thickness.

One interesting yearly tradition centers on the preparation of gumbo; it is the annual Fat Tuesday Run or Courir de Mardi Gras. Usually held in rural communities, it is a tradition that dates back to Medieval France. A parade of Mardi Gras celebrators, often in costumes, go from house to house collecting ingredients for their gumbo by performing dances and chasing a chicken. The community of Iowa, LA still hosts such a parade.


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