Any teenager or parent of a teenager around the New Orleans area has heard of Grace King – the place, perhaps not the person. I suspect only a few know Grace Elizabeth King was one of Louisiana’s first women writers. To honor her with a namesake high school seems appropriate if you know it started out as an all girls’ public high school. I remember – I taught at Grace King in 1970 and 1971.
King (1851-1932) wrote short fiction, novels, biography and history. She was a leader in literary, historical and cultural activities in New Orleans during Reconstruction following the Civil War. In New Orleans: The People and the Place, she captured the history of the city with insight into women’s roles including chapters on the yellow fever epidemic and Ursuline nuns.
Her Balcony Stories is now free on Amazon for Kindle or Project Gutenburg Readers of her day, however, found her stories in magazines like Harper’s New Monthly and The Century. Several stories tugged at my heart strings when I read of young girls abandoned or without family. (Another good reason to name a girls’ school for her).
King, who hobnobbed with the likes of Sherwood Anderson and Mark Twain, is one of the best known female literary figures from New Orleans. She actually made a living as a writer, helping her family in a struggle to regain their wealth and status following the Civil War. When her local color stories went out of vogue she turned to history and biography, even writing one on Bienville, founder of New Orleans.
Grace King didn’t leave recipes or cookbooks behind, and though she wrote Creole Families of New Orleans, she was not Creole. She was the grande dame of the New Orleans literary scene and held court at her home at 1749 Coliseum Street. I doubt she served her guests gumbo.
So for fun, I’m recommending a gumbo recipe for Grace King that is served in school cafeterias – or at least one school cafeteria in Kansas according to a comment on cooks.com I wonder how many times this recipe would have to be multiplied to feed Grace King High School’s current enrollment of 1337.
ANDOUILLE AND CHICKEN GUMBO
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Start off by prepping the “Trinity” vegetables (onion, celery and bell pepper) by chopping them, then set aside with the onion separate.
To a cast iron skillet warming up on med-high heat, add the oil and then the flour, blending well to make a roux. Continue stirring constantly on medium to medium-high heat with a metal spatula or wire whisk for about 15-20 minutes as the roux turns color from white to tan, then to a peanut butter color, and then a medium to dark brown color like melted chocolate. Note: Make sure to scrape the entire base of the skillet as u go along and never stop stirring for any longer than about 5-10 seconds or it will scorch.)
At this point add the onions first and cook for at least 5 minutes until they start to caramelize in the roux (which will turn it even darker), then add the celery, bell pepper, garlic and thyme to the hot roux, stir and cook on low heat for about 5 more minutes.
Transfer the cooked roux mixture to a large stockpot and add the chicken stock over high heat (plus extra water later if needed to cover the remaining ingredients) along with the chicken, sausage and Tony’s seasoning. While allowing the assembled gumbo to come to a boil, fry the bare okra in a few tablespoons of oil for a couple minutes and then add to the pot (or if desired, breaded okra can be substituted and served on the side).
Once brought to a boil, lower heat to med-low and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve hot over a bed of rice with green onions and parsley garnish, plus ground sassafras leaves (file’) can be added for even more authentic Cajun flavor.