The arctic blast that visited New Orleans this week set teeth chattering and tongues waging, with some cursing the very weather. Sure, those accustomed to colder climates may scoff at our complaints down here, but they don’t know what we endure in deepest summer. To freeze in winter too can feel like a betrayal by dear old Mother Nature herself.
But here are a few thoughts to warm your heart, if not your house.
One, the Saints are in the playoffs. Two, Carnival season is on our doorstep. And three, there’s always gumbo.
I’m not being flip. Gumbo is more than comfort food on a cold day. It’s a big bowl of feel better, and it’s a taste of home that reminds you why you live here.
Maybe just talking about it will thaw those fingers, and when it comes to gumbo we have to start by talking about type.
The wet cold here always gets me thinking about chicken and sausage gumbo. Thick, saddle brown and aromatic with andouille. It’s as comforting as a curl of smoke from the chimney.
Then there’s seafood gumbo, with that intermingling of shrimp and crab that plunges down to the gleaming, mouth-coating flavor of the bayou and the coast.
But maybe the answer is Creole gumbo, the city’s own gumbo variation, coming to the stovetop through generations of local families. It’s that crucial mix of Creole hot sausage and a mélange of meats and seafood in a roux that’s dark, substantial but still slurp-able. Some call it kitchen sink style; to me, on a cold day it feels more like a hot tub for the soul.
Of course, in the summertime I turn to gumbo for a boost too. The weather is opposite, but the appeal is the same. When it feels like Mother Nature has turned against us, we can turn to the culture that New Orleans has nurtured for itself, and gumbo is part of that. So keep complaining about the weather if you want, and I’ll see you in the gumbo with the rest of the crabs.