I paid $9 for a bowl of gumbo on Friday. It was so good I bought another bowl on Saturday. Liquid gold. That’s $18 in 24 hours for gumbo. I was dining in style, without white linen, crystal and silver. My liquid gold was ladled into a eight-ounce styrofoam bowl and balanced on a paper plate. I was at the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, where shoppers and art lovers stroll among sprawling 100-year-old oaks carrying plastic glasses of wine or Bloody Marys, as they admire the work of 200 exhibiting artists.
My small bowl of gumbo came from the big tent of Caribbean Cafe, a food vendor from Santa Rosa, Florida. Their banners advertised jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and gumbo, plus the servers were dishing out samples.
At $9 a bowl, I definitely wanted a sample first. (I’m a sucker for samples at Sam’s and Costco).
The man dishing out the gumbo told me about Caribbean Café. “There’s no restaurant or storefront. She only does catering and festivals.” He then turned to another customer and rattled off the gumbo ingredients: grouper, Andouille sausage, green pepper, celery, shrimp. He turned back to me and explained that the roux cooks for two hours to get the caramel-brown color and rich flavor. It was the best gumbo I’ve ever had at a festival or a gumbo cookoff, and I paid $1.12 an ounce for it.
Later on Saturday I watched a barbecue tent pack up after at a car show at Maritime Park. They were selling their leftover fully-cooked Boston Butts for $35 each so they wouldn’t have to haul them back home. Their price calculated at less than $5 a pound.
So, I wonder, what happens to the gumbo that doesn’t sell at Caribbean Cafe? Do they take it back to Santa Rosa? Freeze it? Donate it to a “gumbo” kitchen? Or do they sell it like a Boston Butt? At full price, a gallon would be $156.16. Even if they closed it out at half price, it would be $78.08. Okay, it was good. Really good. But maybe not quite that good.