A few weeks ago while in Ely, Cambridgeshire in the UK with friends, we took turns making one of our favorite dishes. Denise, Susan, and Bridget had always wanted to taste some of my gumbo, so I packed the non-perishable ingredients to bring along on our UK Retreat. Because we were in the UK, I knew the proper Andouille sausage would be hard to get my hands on. Fortunately the local Waitrose offered a nice chorizo that would be a perfect substitute. The gumbo turned out nice and was a warm and comforting meal on a cold night in that little cottage we were snuggled into.
After seeing a photo of my gumbo on Facebook earlier, I promised Hugh Taylor and James Gracie that I would make some for them while I would be visiting in Moniaive, Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. I brought along the same ingredients, but sometimes the most interesting moments in life are the unplanned ones. On St. Patrick’s Day we went over to the local pub, The Craigdarroch Arms Hotel, for an afternoon music session. Tim, who runs the place, had been promised a taste of real gumbo and when I walked in the door he asked “Did you bring my gumbo?”
“Well,” I replied, “it hasn’t been made yet, but if you have a pot available, I can just make it here for you.”
“Can you make enough for everyone in the pub?” Tim asked.
I thought for a moment, inquired if I could used some stock in the kitchen, and of course it all worked out. I found myself in the hotel kitchen preparing a large pot of gumbo and adding whatever I could find out of the pantry. I prepared all my ingredients while listening to the strains of music coming through from the public area and found my feet tapping to the music as I set the pot to simmering for the time being.
And then I heard the haunting music of a fiddle with the rest of the musicians joining along playing “Danny Boy”. I poked my head out the kitchen door to listen and looked around at all the people I would get to feed that day. At that moment I felt this great love for the power of food and how it nourishes and comforts people. And I thought about that pot of gumbo, which is so much like my own life. The base of the gumbo is traditional with Louisiana spice, but it’s been enhanced by international friendships and travel, with the chorizo, and now Scotland because I even added black pudding to the gumbo pot that day.
I went back into the kitchen to begin preparing the potato salad and Tim kept the door open for me so I could hear the music. The scent of the gumbo wafted through the public rooms and every once in a while someone would poke their head in and comment about how good it smelled.
Finally the meal was complete and we served the entire hotel Louisiana chicken and sausage gumbo with a Scottish twist. Everyone was excited to see real file´ and they were even adventurous enough to add Crystal hot sauce just like I enjoy.
And for the next ten minutes all that could be heard throughout the public rooms of The Craigdarroch Arms Hotel was the scraping of spoons and a few sighs of pleasure. I can’t even begin to express how good it made me feel to see this crowd of people smiling and enjoying a meal that I prepared. There wasn’t a drop of gumbo left in the pot. I had three marriage proposals and one handsome man even told me “I’m deeply in love with you”.
That afternoon I was whisked away for a walk around a castle in the snow and returned late that evening to the musicians playing “Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File´Gumbo” — all I could do was just sit there and grin. I guess my gumbo turned out okay.
Sharing a pot of gumbo sure did make me feel all sparkly inside. I love being from Louisiana.
Here’s my recipe for Easy Chicken and Sausage Gumbo