Saturday, October 7, 2017

GREAT BOWLS OF GUMBO!



Yesterday morning I was worried about Hurricane Nate and talked with my good friend, Janet Faulk-Gonzales, president of the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce in New Iberia, Louisiana where I live part of each year. Janet always knows the skinny about weather in this city, variously known as “The Berry,” “Queen City of the Teche,” and “Home of World Championship Gumbo Cookoff.” The latter seemed to be a big concern of Janet’s since the outdoor cookout is New Iberia’s biggest annual event sponsored by the Chamber.

The World Championship Gumbo Cookoff, a three-day competition, began with twelve booths 28 years ago and has increased to 90 booths set up by amateur and professional chefs who demonstrate the “power of the roux” with some of the tastiest gumbo in the world. Although rainy days in Acadiana usually inspire area cooks to bring out their iron pots and declare “gumbo weather,” the thought of a hurricane approaching and heavy rain falling has Janet and area chefs nervous about the “Battle of the Rouxs.”

The “Prettiest Town in America” (so named by Forbes magazine) produces the tastiest gumbo in booths such as the “Gumbo Spoon Saloon” and other aptly-named headquarters for a dish that chefs throughout the world try to duplicate. From what I’ve tasted of imitators’ concoctions (and some have been unusually bad) there’re none so savory as the gumbos offered at this festival in New Iberia. Chefs compete in two events: amateur and professional, and stir up a variety of gumbos: chicken and sausage, melange, shrimp and okra, seafood, to name a few. Some chefs also cook dishes that complement the Cajun fare: bread pudding, crab chowder, charbroiled oysters…

The World Championship Gumbo Cookoff even uses Gumbo Police who patrol the grounds at Bouligny Plaza in downtown New Iberia and peer into ice chests to make sure that no one brings pre-made gumbo into a "make from scratch" competition. Cajun bands, a Roux Run, tours of local museums, dancing —they’re all part of a Cajun event for citizens who know how to have a good time down on the Bayou Teche. Unfortunately, I won’t be returning to New Iberia for the October 14-15 celebration. I know the rosary beads are clacking, prayers going up to stave off the lurking hurricane so everyone can laissez les bon temps rouler!


Superhero banner at top of blog is theme of this year's Cookoff, and drawing above is taken from my young adult book, The Kajun Kween by Paul Schexnayder.



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