A pot of gumbo is a like a masterpiece of art. And, like art, it comes with a story. Along with gumbo recipes, I collect gumbo art. In fact, my kitchen is more of a gallery than galley. Three special pieces hang out in my kitchen.
The most unique is a mosaic crafted with eggshells by Mississippi artist Suzanne Nelson. The miniature simmering pot of gumbo is a refrigerator magnet, and the only magnet allowed to mar my stainless steel refrigerator doors. On the card which accompanied the art, Nelson describes her method of recycling eggshells to recreate the Italian Renaissance mosaic form. I treasure this small piece even more since it was a gift from my cousin Becky Hart, also an artist.
Above the sink on an easel stands a primitive gumbo sign by L. E. Sloan whose artist’s statement is anything but primitive. Taped to the back of the 6 x 8-inch plywood plaque is his philosophy — “the artist’s responsibility is to define, select and emphasize experiences that the ordinary man might pass by or accept too easily.” And, yes, the image reflects beauty in cooking the ordinary. I bought it at The Gumbo Gallery in Pensacola, then owned by Sonia Griffin Evans, a noted artist, who has since closed the gallery and returned to her roots in South Carolina. On the end of my kitchen island hangs “Ready for Gumbo,” a 12 x 12-inch oil on canvas by Reese Foret of Gulf Breeze. The painting was a Christmas gift from Son #2 and family. Since receiving it, I’ve met the artist and visited her studio. And in a twist of fate, she purchased my mother’s art show tent and equipment and is making her own mark in the art world.
All three of my kitchen gallery pieces are created by artists who have found a way to “recycle” materials for self-expression. That’s sort of like gumbo, if you’ve ever heard the joke about making a roux and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. There’s actually a recipe for Freezer Clean-Out Gumbo and another for Empty the Freezer Gumbo.
My most collectible piece “Watcha’ Got Cookin’” is by award-winning Florida artist Tony Krysinski . The 24 x 24-inch colorful acrylic on hardboard shows the delicate balance of flavors when cooking gumbo. My husband bought it for me when I listed Krysinki’s art as #2 on my Gifts for the Gumbo Lover post. (I also got the bowls and platter, #5).
Stowed away in a closet until I find the courage to finish a novel is a framed poster for the 2012 Gulf Breeze Rotary Gumbo Cook-off. I hope to commission its artist, Julie Clark, to design the cover for Rue the Roux, my cozy mystery about poisonings at a gumbo cook-off — not the one in Gulf Breeze, of course.
Today’s post features three gumbo recipes, all with stories, from friends who are helping me in my quest for 300 gumbo recipes to celebrate News Orleans’ 300 years.
Lucille Adams’ gumbo, posted here in her simple version, is delicious. A dear neighbor, Lucille sends frozen containers of her gumbo around to folks who are ill. I’ve thought about playing sick just to get some more.
Charlie Davis, a Pensacola native who used to trap crabs in Bayou Texar, shares his brother Ben’s recipe. I’m hoping Charlie can also find his mother’s recipe because his mama probably taught Ben how to cook. Their mother had a way of using crab bodies fresh from the bayou to create a rich gumbo, the kind where you have to get your fingers a little messy to appreciate the taste.
Pat Davis of Birmingham, Alabama, who is no relation to Charlie or Ben, sends Mama Falgout’s Shrimp Okra Gumbo with this story: “Mama never put tomatoes in her gumbo. It was not thick at all — more like a soup. She was Acadian French: Lillian Champine Falgout. I spent a month every summer there and lived for this gumbo. She would walk a couple of blocks to the shrimp processing plant and get the shrimp. The parsley patch was by her back steps.”
Thanks to the gallery of artists and galley of cooks who have shared their talents to make my kitchen a rich and warm place, a place to create stories.