Since there wasn’t a gumbo cookoff in the area last weekend, I trekked over to the Filipino-American Fiesta in Pensacola. Music and food were great, but I particularly enjoyed the historical displays about The Philipines. I learned the earliest Filipino settlement in the United States was in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Now, I’m thinking — that’s gumbo country! So I researched when I got home. The Manila Men, as they were called, settled in the small fishing village of Saint Malo, southeast of New Orleans. The village disappeared almost a hundred years ago from a fate similiar to Katrina.
So here’s the debate: Did Filipino culture contribute to the creation of gumbo? One notable Filipino cooks says “yes.” Marvin Gapultos, a Filipino food blogger (BurntLumpia.typepad.com), owner of Manila Machine in Los Angeles, suggests that Filipinos might be responsible for adding shrimp to gumbo. My daughter-in-law, who is of Filipino descent, says shrimp is definitely a part of Filipino cuisine and anytime there’s a Filipino gathering, there’s always a shrimp dish – resembling the Spanish cooking rather than Chinese or Japanese. But, she didn’t have gumbo until she met our son.
So the question arises: Who put the shrimp in the gumbo? Historical menus date gumbo being served in Louisiana as early as 1803 and 1804, but was it seafood gumbo? In 1885, a Creole Cookery book includes a recipe for gumbo that calls for shrimp. By then, Filipinos
were well established in Saint Malo and other parts of Louisiana. So, maybe the Filipinos did put the shrimp in the gumbo.
One thing is for sure – I’m glad the Filipinos stayed. They’ve made my life much richer.