I wouldn’t dare serve American writer Dorothy Parker a bowl of Creole or Cajun gumbo. She had her fill of it back in 1927, though she was speaking of literary flavors. In “The Short Story Through a Couple of the Ages,” an essay for The New Yorker, she hammered home the point that Creole belles and beaux were overdone in literature. Perhaps the same is true in today’s culinary world. Regardless, her essay rules out traditional flavors for her in my quest to find the perfect gumbo for 52 American writers, one a week in 2016.
“Dottie” Parker, esteemed wit and member of American’s most popularized literary circle the Algonquin Round Table, lunched weekly with 30 other writers at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. Food writer Kathleen Flinn researched what the group ate during their ten-year routine. “It was the usual fare of the 1920s, continental fare influenced by French. Shrimp cocktails, cold fish cakes with lemon cream sauce, various cuts of beef in red wine sauce . . . along with two enduring food items served gratis: celery and popovers.”
But no, alcohol. After all, it was prohibition.
Despite the times, cocktails were a favorite with Parker. As Kevin Fitzpatrick, author of Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide, explained with this anecdote:
“When Dorothy Parker walked into a kitchen one morning, her host asked her what he could make her for breakfast. ‘Just something light and easy to fix,’ she said. ‘How about a dear little whiskey sour?’”
For a woman with both a cocktail and a gin named in her honor and a palate for European flavors, fine whiskey and champagne, I recommend serving gumbo with a hearty, French flavor – Burgundy Beef Gumbo. And I’ll toast her with a little ditty I wrote patterning her style.
Dorothy Parker of Algonquin fame,
New Yorker writeress and wit of the day,
said writing’s a miserable, lonely way,
just you and your paper, hoping to claim
more than a gin bottle bearing your name.