I’m hiding the rice cooker if Jack London comes for gumbo. He’s the first of the 52 American writers I’m reading this year who would be more particular about the rice than the gumbo.
London (1876-1916) was such a rice aficionado that he knew the types of rice grains and perfected a special cooking technique. He may have learned about rice when he took part in the Klondike Gold Rush gathering background for his novels like The Call of the Wild and stories like To Build A Fire. Rice was a staple in the gold fields. London’s wife submitted his method for cooking rice and several rice recipes to San Francisco socialite Sarah Williamson for her 1916 California Cookbook. One his favorite rice casserole features onions and green peppers. This rare cookbook was republished in 2013 by editor Francesca Salerno, who found an original copy in a used bookstore.
London, a social activist as well as journalist and novelist, also submitted recipes to The Suffrage Cookbook, compiled in 1915 and published in Pittsburgh. His remarks and recipes show his fondness for duck – canvas back, mallard, teal. He describes duck as a “sovereign food.” His recipes also indicate a taste for oysters. This cookbook is free online at Project Gutenberg. London scholar Dan Wichlan has researched the author’s recipes and posted them online. The site even identifies London’s favorite restaurant as the Saddle Rock in Oakland, CA., and his favorite menu item as “ten-minute” wild duck.
So for gumbo, I’ll make Duck and Oyster Gumbo using Chef John Besh’s recipe (altered by
adding green peppers) served on a mound of never fail China Doll White Rice. By the way, does John Besh remind you of Jack London? Check out the hair and smile.
I only wish my old dog Tippy were still alive to have a little chat with Jack London. She could tell him a thing or two about survival in the wilds of Oklahoma.