Twenty or so years ago my parents went on a trip to New Orleans. I think my dad was working. He traveled a lot back then so we all learned to make the best of it. Every once in a while the “best of it” meant a little vacation tacked onto his business travels.
It was on this trip that my mom went to a cooking school and learned to prepare gumbo. My family has been enjoying it ever since, it’s even become our traditional Christmas dinner. And it’s all I wanted to eat for Mothers’ Day, so my dad packed up some andouille ordered from a little shop in New Orleans and sent it overnight so I could have the dinner I wanted.
As I write this post at my dining table I can glance in the kitchen and see the silver pot on the stove. Under the lid dinner bubbles away. It will cook most of the day and the smell will drive me nuts.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve hovered as mom stood over the stove stirring the roux. Cut up the sausage. Chopped the trinity. Stirred in the broth. I never watched the whole “chicken process” because that’s just fucking gross. As we all got more comfortable with the meal I started helping. Mostly chopping up all the vegetables.
Over the last 20 years I’ve helped make gumbo many times. I’ve made batches myself, but always with help (see fucking gross “chicken process”). This is the first batch I’ve made all on my own. Entirely by myself. I didn’t even make someone come over at an indecent hour to skin the chicken for me. Yes, I even dealt with the chicken with a little help from some vodka.
Every other time I’ve worked on it I’ve carefully checked the recipe. Once. Twice. Twenty times. Unsure. Unwilling to make a mistake. But I’m not a recipe checker. I read and get the gist of it and then go on my way making the dish my own. It’s how I cook. Except with gumbo.
That changed today. I got up. Headed into the kitchen and started cooking. With everything chopped and in the pot I started the roux. That’s where I made the change. I never feel like there’s quite enough roux flavor so I made more. I wanted to do it my way. I needed to make it my own.
I may be changing the recipe my mom taught me from, but making a change… that’s something I learned from her too.
I love you, mom.