Friday, December 23, 2005

Heritage You Can Eat

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It's cold today in Pure Florida. We had a freeze warning last night and it's 26 degrees F this morning. A sparkling coat of white frost lies on the grass. The dogs are curled together on the porch, noses tucked 'neath tails.

It's time for Gumbo.

This wonderful, spicy soup...( a stew really) is tailor-made for this kind of cold day...even though it has it's origins in tropical Africa and the steamy subtropical American south. Florida has a dynamic African American history that dates way back to 1565, long before the pilgrims ever weighed anchor.

Unlike the later northern colonies, in Spanish colonial Florida blacks lived as free citizens. They were an integral part of the St. Augustine colony and contributed greatly to it's defense and it's success. You probably missed that in your history books. You can repair this gap in your knowledge, by googling Fort Mose, or for a quick lesson, try clicking here.

"Giving Liberty to all ...the men as well as the that by their example and my liberality others will do the same..." From Spanish King Carlos II's Royal Cedula of 1693

Essentially, if you could escape your British master in Georgia and make it to Florida, you were a free citizen. This really was the first underground railroad and it flowed south.

These newly freed families brought along recipes that melded with those of the other cultures in Florida and the Gulf Coast. Gumbo is one of the best of these. Louisianna may claim Gumbo as their own, but the fact is, it is much more likely that it was first served in...yes, you guessed it, ...Florida.

You can put anything in Gumbo. I like chicken and sausage gumbo best, but a good seafood gumbo is hard to beat also. No matter what you put in your gumbo, it has to begin with a "roux". Traditionally, a roux is a mix of flour and oil that is cooked in a skillet until reddish brown. It is the thickening base for gumbo and the backbone of the entire dish.

My gumbo is a low fat version and avoids the large amount of oil needed for traditional gumbo. The flour is browned in the oven at high heat until a rich chocolate color instead of doing this in oil on the stove top. Using skinless chicken and some good low fat sausage cuts even more fat...enough so you can go back for that fourth steamy bowl guilt free.

Add a little rice to your bowl, grab some crusty bread, and prepare to be warmed from within. I'll post the recipe later today...(such a tease).

As Jimmy says in, "I Will Play For Gumbo":

"...A piece of french bread with which to wipe my bowl
Good for the body, good for the soul
It's a little like religion and a lot like sex
You should never know when you're gonna get it next "


wayne said...

FC, this is important. Do you thicken your gumbo with okra? I hate okra. :-)

Even if it is a member of the hallowed Malvaceae.

The Fat Man said...

I like mine with shrimp & scallops, crab when I can get it...

Big war in my house over who stole the recipe Louisiana or Florida. My Minorcan desenedent sides with me, not to mention has an old family recipe that's to die for.

Wife swears it's not gunmbo with out file', I like it both ways. She says cayene, I say datil...

Wayne it's not Gumbo without okra, you are forgiven my son...

Merry Christmas to you and yours...

Floridacracker said...

Africa has given us many wonderful things...okra is not one of them. I hate the stuff and would never, I repeat NEVER put it in anything. We stand united against okra.

The Fat Man said...


That should have read my Minorcan neighbor...

Floridacracker said...

Gumbo affection noted. I am more interested in the Minorcan terms you are throwing around..datil, etc.
Do you have ties to St. Aug or New Smyrna?

Floridacracker said...

OOps, just saw your correction.

Wayne said...

I should say that I very much respect okra as a plant :-)

Just keep it out of my food.

thingfish23 said...

By all means, post the recipe.

The Fat Man said...

FC: not Minorican myself but it seems both my late father and I have had/have close friends of Minorican heratiage. Early in life picked up on sour oranges and datil peppers.

Grow datils myelf in the back yard with mixed results here in G'ville.

First saw St. Augustine at 4 that would 1955. Can't keep me away, we do our mini vactions there and the wife and I honeymooned there.

My neighbor is in the family that was the tenders of the lighthouse in St. Augustine (both the the old one and the "new" one).

Now our beach of choice is Crecent, but as a kid New Symrna was my beach & salt water fishing hole..

Rexroth's Daughter said...

FC-- Love how you make a roux. I never thought to brown the flour in the oven first. Such a good idea. The gumbo sounds delicious. What spices do you use? Are they different for fish gumbo? I've never had gumbo, but the descriptions alway sound very yummy.

roger said...

two words fc---olive oil. a positive addition to any diet. no trans-fat-blah-blah, no saturation of fat, helps reduce bad cholesterol. minorca must have olive trees eh. out here on the left coast we have a strong italian influence so we get ciappino. i think it's more tomato based. we like spicy stuff. will try gumbo.

Floridacracker said...

We can both agree it's a tall plant with really pretty flowers...just don't eat it.

Will do...I am supposed to be installing flooring, but the queen is away shopping and I think I can post it and get back to work without being caught slacking...

They are probably related to me...way back.

I wish I could say I thought of that idea, but I stole it. I'll post the recipe to answer the spice question.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't cook with or consume olive oil and garlic. Even if you used olive oil to make a traditional roux, it would be so much more fat than my way. I get enough of it from other sources.

pablo said...

I like okra.

Floridacracker said...



Zanne said...

Okra - fried only, otherwise your eating slime.

Some of those runaway slaves met up with the Seminoles and hence became what was later termed the Black Seminoles.

Floridacracker said...

Florida is the original "melting pot".