Monday, October 17, 2011

First Gumbo

My son, enjoying his first gumbo.

We had our first gumbo of the season today, which is sort of a big deal.  Gumbo means that it's really fall.  Fall means that it's time to get to work preparing for next year.

What's gumbo?  Well, where I grew up we eat a stew called gumbo in the fall and winter.  There is no one, real recipe for gumbo.  There are as many recipes for gumbo as there are people cooking it in Louisiana.  There are seafood gumbos, poultry gumbos, meat gumbos and, true to the spirit of the people of Louisiana, gumbos made out of whatever the hell you drug out of the swamp that day.  What makes it gumbo isn't a recipe.  What makes it gumbo is the shared culture of the people of Louisiana.  We are from different ethnicities, different socio-economic groups and different heritages, but we are all tied together with the thread that is gumbo. 

So what makes gumbo gumbo?  Well, it starts with a roux.  A roux is made of flour and oil.  Any kind of flour will do, and any kind of oil will do.  You cook it, very slowly,  until it's the color you want:  blonde is good for seafood, Creoles prefer a roux that's the color of peanut butter and the Cajuns like a roux that's the color of molasses.  I've had all sorts, and they all tasted good. 

Once you've built your roux (a roux is built, it is not just made), you add the Holy Trinity.  In Louisiana cooking, the Holy Trinity is onions, celery and green bell peppers.  Those three things are a constant in every one of our dishes, regardless of who (or what) is cooking. 

And to finish it up, there's okra.  Most people I know outside of Louisiana don't really like okra.  It's a funny sort of thing, and probably an acquired taste.  Disparagers of okra will tell you that the stuff is slimy, really slimy.  It is slimy, I cannot dispute that, but that slime is the glue that holds our gumbos together.  Without okra, gumbo wouldn't have the wondrous, velvety texture that it is famed for.  It just couldn't be gumbo without okra.

For the rest of it, well that's up to the cook.  It can be whatever you want it to be.  Gumbo draws on all the cultures of Louisiana:  French, Spanish, African, Native American, and just straight up United States.  It's a melting pot of influences, with no influence being "right" or "wrong".

Honestly, I cannot think of a better analogy for horsemanship than gumbo.  Rhythm and relaxation are our roux.  Our seat, hand and leg are our Holy Trinity.  And our passion is okra. 

Every discipline, no matter it's final goal, is looking for rhythm and relaxation.  We all seek that perfect balance between hand, seat and leg.  That's the "Holy Trinity" we are all looking for.  And, okra?  Well, you cannot deny that there is a certain slime that is holding all of us who are interested in horses together.  That slime is both celebrated and abhorred, but it is there (and probably an acquired taste!). 

I look at the people of my home, and I see a reflection of many disparate heritages, but we are all drawn together by a spirit of culture that goes back hundreds of years.  We, as the people of Louisiana, are drawn together by a land that we all call our own.  It's a difficult land, and we have all done our best in it.  Despite our differences (African, French, Spanish, Native American, and everything else!),   we have created a common culture, outside of the societal norms, because we are united in a common interest:  Our beloved land, Louisiana.

I look at my fellow horsemen, and I don't see a culture that goes back hundreds of years.  Our culture goes back thousands of years, to the dawn of humanity.  Horses are our okra.  Horsemanship crosses countries, ethnicities, and cultures.  Horses are the slime that binds humanity together. 

Because of that history that spans thousands of generations and lifestyles, there are more ways to ride a horse than there are ways for me to count them, and there is nothing wrong with that.  We are tied together by our roux and our Holy Trinity, and our okra.  None of our recipes are necessarily right or wrong, they just are.  Through our gumbo, our love of horses, our shared culture, we are tied together in a way that most people never understand. 

And, through our gumbo, our love of horses, our shared culture, I hope that we can be more accepting of each other. 

Because most times, although the recipe is different, the gumbo still tastes good.


  1. Great post! and Okra is a lot like horse snot!

  2. Is Okra a small pentagonal zucchine type of vegetable? I had it with Indian curry. I thought it was a vegetable from India O_o DuH? I am learning something every day ^-^

    I like your cooking lesson. Yoru son looks SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Cheeky. I bet you are never bore with him.

    Is Evil cat getting on well with him? Our "special needs" Cat aka FatCat ( many photos on FB) luuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeessssssssss Oliver. But you shoudl see how he plays with her. Never the less, she is all love for him, and claws and teeth for us. Go figure!

  3. Not sure I'm brave enough for gumbo (sheltered Norwegian tastebuds here), but your son is adorable.

  4. Yum....and I do like okra! (Strange for a NJ native with no "south" in me at all.)

    Never quite thought of gumbo and riding as a good analogy, but it certainly does work.

    And I agree--your post has made me hungry too.

  5. Great post!! I had gumbo tonight for supper (although it was a weak boxed version - still tasty though) so this was a great post to read. I absolutely love the analogy. :D


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