Friday, December 23, 2005
Heritage You Can Eat
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 women...so 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 "
Posted by R.Powers at 9:37 AM