I know taste buds have a memory function. They make my mouth water when I think about brownies fresh out of the oven or my stomach growl when I smell fried chicken at WalMart. So I wonder — can taste buds get Alzheimer’s? I ask because the gumbo that I often remember as fantastic is usually a disappointment when I go back a few months later for another bowl.
Yesterday I went back for seconds. It was a sunny winter day and my mind kept whispering gumbo at the beach, gumbo at the beach. After two hours of resisting the brain telegraph, I returned to H2O, the Hilton’s Asian Fusion restaurant on Pensacola Beach.
My taste buds remembered their gumbo as some of the best I’d ever eaten. I guess I’ve eaten a bunch since then, because the gumbo didn’t live up to the reputation my memory had on file for it. It’s my favorite type — real Louisiana seafood gumbo with a dark brown roux. I just didn’t remember all the andouille in it. Andouille is a spicy smoked Cajun sausage with a real kick. My bowlful had more diced andouille in it than seafood, vegetables or rice. The sausage gave it a kick, all right – the kind that burns your throat right after you swallow. The andouille also made the gumbo way too salty — yet my taste buds were begging for saltines. Maybe they just needed something soothing after the andouille jolt.
Next time I’m craving gumbo I might stick to the mainland. There’s a dollar toll to cross the bridge to the beach, so tack that on to the tab and it becomes a $10 bowl of gumbo, without the tip. It’s good gumbo – just not as good as I remember it.