Every year like clockwork, we in New Orleans experience beautiful southern weather. For a couple of weeks in autumn, we can step outside and see perfection. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the sun is beaming, and it’s not too hot and not too cold. As Goldilocks from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” would say, “it’s just right!” New Orleanians bask in this glorious weather, but we also know it as a sign that gumbo season is upon us. New England might have clam chowder, but New Orleans has gumbo.
After a couple of weeks of average temperatures, the barometer drops to colder ones. First it hovers around the 60s, then slowly drops to the 50s, and before you know it, we’re on autopilot in the 40s or 30s. These cold temperatures make it “gumbo season” in the south, giving people the hunger for something warm to eat. My family even has a habit of cooking gumbo and then freezing it so we can have some later on in the year. The most well-known type of gumbo is seafood gumbo, which consists of a brown roux and different types of seafood. But there are also many different variants based on different cooking styles. There are a wide variety of meats used in the gumbo, from seafood to chicken to wieners. There are also different gumbo colors: light brown, dark brown, red, or even black.
There are many who will debate on the topic of gumbo. They disagree on how it should look, what it should contain, and how to prepare it. In New Orleans, all we care about is taste. If the food tastes good, others will enjoy it; if not, we know to add more to the pot. In my opinion, the best type of gumbo is homemade gumbo: that recipe that’s been passed down through generations, the custom ingredients that may not always be by the book, and the right flavors or spices that will go into making it. But we also have a myriad of restaurants that capture the true sense of gumbo time after time.
The term gumbo actually describes the essence of New Orleans: a mix of cultures that exist together in one place. So if you happen to find yourself in New Orleans and you really want to taste the city, pick up a bowl of gumbo and enjoy what we have been enjoying for years.