Through my medical work, I met a wonderful physician, Tom, who has become a great friend. He lives in Lafayette, Louisiana and owned a company I worked for there. I’d visit pretty regularly some years ago. It’s hard to spend any time in Cajun Country, aka Acadiana, and not fall in love with the food. Wow. It’s amazing. Gumbo was my very favorite, and Tom knew it. He decided to appeal to my competitive streak, and he challenged me to a Gumbo contest, knowing I wanted to learn how to make it, but knowing Cajun food preparation was a mystery to me. Roux in particular. What? You cook flour and oil? Don’t burn it. Mystery.
So, for the next three months, I put myself through Gumbo College. I went to Gumbo festivals and tried 25 different Gumbos. I had detailed conversations with at least 10 Gumbo chefs. I downloaded 5 Gumbo recipes from the internet. One day Stan Gauthier, Tom’s attorney, came to the office. Stan used to run the All Cajun food company and is an amazing Cajun cook. What a resource, right here in the office! Let’s face it, foodies recognize foodies. (I think it has something to do with clothing size…..) Stan asked me where I was eating lunch, and I said, “I’m eating with you.” Smartest thing I ever said. Stan took me on the backroad foodies guide to Cajun eats. And when we talked about Gumbo, he sang like a canary. And Tom thought Stan was his secret weapon. Let’s just say Stan filled in some missing pieces for me.
The day of the contest I was cooking in a friend’s kitchen. His wife was watching and saw I was taking this final exam seriously. Before everyone arrived, I gave her a taste and she said, “Well this isn’t right. I’ve lived here my whole life, and you make this better than I do.” That was my diploma from Gumbo U.! Tom ended up defaulting on the contest, but his mission was accomplished. I make great Gumbo. And putting myself through Gumbo College gave me the unexpected courage some years later to put myself through Calamondin College. 😀