A heavily seasoned, stew-like dish is in the spotlight on National Gumbo Day which is annually observed on October 12. Originating in southern Louisiana during the 18th century, Gumbo is a dish that typically consists of a strongly flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoned vegetables.
The seasoned vegetables may include celery, bell peppers, and onions which are a trio known in Cajun cuisine as the “holy trinity. The dish is commonly served over rice.
- Gumbo arose from a West African word for okra, ki ngombo, which many believe is how the name and the ingredient are also intertwined.
- 12th Century – The earliest written records reveal that okra was first cultivated in Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia).
- 1719 – Enslaved Africans were brought to the French colony in large numbers starting in 1719, and by 1721 more than half the residents of New Orleans were African.
- 1802 – John Sibley described “the dish they call gumbo which is made principally of the ochre into a thick kind of soup & eat with rice, it is the food of everybody for dinner and supper.”
- 1803 – gumbo was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans
- 1824 – Mary Randolph’s cookbook “The Virginia House-Wife” was the first to include a recipe for gumbo
- 1972- the United States Senate cafeteria added Gumbo to the menu in honor of Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender.
- 1980s – Chef Paul Prudhomme’s rise to television popularity multiplies the American interest in Creole and Cajun cooking.
- 1989 – Fewer than a dozen chefs participate in the inaugural World Championship Gumbo CookOff in New Iberia, Louisiana.
- 2018 – Los Angeles-based chef set the world record for the largest-ever pot of seafood gumbo, made at the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. The record was set at 6500 pounds of seafood gumbo.
- Gumbo is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana.
- Gumbo is cooked for a minimum of three hours but often simmers all-day
- Gumbo is a dish with Spanish, French, African, Native American, German, and Caribbean influences, all coming together in one hearty meal.
- The self-described “Gumbo Capital of the World”, Bridge City, Louisiana, holds an annual Gumbo Festival.
- Since 1989, New Iberia, Louisiana has held The World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off.
- There are several different varieties of gumbo based on the type of thickener used to create the dish.
- Creole gumbo contains shellfish and tomatoes whereas Cajun gumbo is generally spicier with shellfish or chicken.
- Gumbo has flavors rooted in Native American, African, Caribbean, Spanish, and French cuisines.
- Gumbo is usually called a Cajun dish, but there are both Cajun and Creole varieties. Cajun refers to a group of people of French descent who migrated to Louisiana in the 18th century after they were expelled from the Northeast by the British.
- The term Creole can refer to both people of mixed descent and those of French or Spanish descent born in the New World.
- The first known reference to gumbo as a dish was uncovered by historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, who found a handwritten transcription of the interrogation of a 50-year-old slave named Comba in New Orleans in 1764. Suspected of being associated with other slaves who had stolen clothes and a pig, Comba is asked whether she had given a slave named Louis un gombeau, and she replies that she did.
- There’s even a tradition in New Orleans, the “courir de Mardi Gras,” where local men go door-to-door begging for gumbo ingredients, and then cook the gumbo in the square that night