Yesterday I had my fill of gumbo. I didn’t think that was possible but the seventeen cooks at the Gumbo Cookoff in Gulf Breeze proved me wrong. The competitors,
many of whom are chefs at local nursing and assisted-care centers, cooked up a wide variety of gumbos — shrimp and chicken, smoked turkey, chicken and sausage, seafood, sweet, Caribbean, healthy turkey, with or without oysters, with lobster, without this, without that. The teams cooked right on the spot often using boat paddles to stir the brews.
And the chefs were willing to talk. I learned that if you forget the okra, you can substitute corn. If you want your gumbo sweet, add some Grand Marnier. Some say it’s not gumbo without okra, others insist on a touch of cardamom. All proclaimed theirs the best at the event.
When it came to casting my vote for the People’s Choice Award it was tough because I was tired of gumbo.
Eating that much gumbo can be an exhilarating and exhausting event. The servings were so generous that I sinfully wasted gumbo. If I didn’t like it, I sneaked to a trash barrel to discretely discard the left-over. One gumbo had that shrimp-water taste and several had too many oysters. I started out eating every spoonful in the six-ounce tasting cups, rice included. By the time I reached the middle of the line, I was asking for no rice and only half a cup of gumbo, but I persevered and tasted all seventeen. My favorites were Pace Rotary, Rosewood Manor, Rotary Chicks and Rotary Team #2. Since most of the competitors were health-related groups and only Rosewood made my top four, I wonder if I prefer family recipes or just un-healthy gumbo?
It’s a breath of fresh air to see local folks out by the hundreds enjoying seafood – and almost forgetting about the oil spill. Hats off to the Rotary Club of Gulf Breeze for their Gumbo Cookoff and the quarter of a million dollars they raise for area scholarships. It’s a good thing it’s only a once a year event – I couldn’t eat another taste of gumbo right now!