Watson Gumbo Gallery: It’s That Time, Again, Y’all!

Winning Gumbo Artists from Last Year

Winning Gumbo Artists from Last Year

I went to see my new acupuncturist today. I’ve finally decided I have to get back to the needles that keep me healthy. My running injury was the driver to get me back to spending the $70 per month on the ancient art of acupuncture. Chinese medicine is thousands of years old, and it’s designed to move the patient back to health and away from the necessity of treatment. Western medicine is an infant in comparison, and it appears that the intent is to keep patients dependent on medications and treatment regimens. Whenever I can, I choose acupuncture. There are some things that only Western medicine can handle, and most acupuncturists know when they see something they can’t treat.

When I first started going to see an acupuncturist, I thought it was a science, and there is a part of it that is based on science. But, it truly is an art. A relationship with an acupuncturist is much more intimate, and they really get to know everything that is going on with you. It helps them to diagnose the problems. Their belief is that everything – everything we feel, eat, drink, and do – is related. They all have their own style and strengths. They use their own intuition, knowledge, references and experience to craft a treatment especially for you. For me, it really works.

They even had a redneck tiger!

They even had a redneck tiger!

So many of our arts are based in science. To be a successful artist, you have to know the basics of the tools. Once you really feel comfortable with the implements and the rules, you can start to spiral out from there, breaking rules and using the tools of the trade to express yourself creatively. Down here in Southern Louisiana, food is an art. Yes, there are recipes, and there is a science to it, but the really good food is created out the passion of the man or woman wielding the wooden spoon. One of the greatest canvases is the gumbo. A dish that began sometime in the 18th century, it’s very beginnings are a creation of mixed cultures and cuisines that bubbled amid the local available food sources. They say that its heritage is West African because the slaves made an okra soup that thickened with the stringy boiled down pod and was the base of the meal. The word Creole is a gumbo itself. It describes the culture that is an inseparable mix of African, Native American, Spanish and French. As the cultural stew simmered over the years, Germans, Acadian French and other immigrants came to the area, and added their flavor, too. We were all thrown into the rich muddy pot that is South Louisiana and cooked and boiled in the heat and the swampy waters that provide such rich and plentiful food and game.

When the first chill came in the air down here, you could smell the roux. The jambalaya and pastalaya made way for gumbo. It is made with any thing – seafood, chicken, sausage, greens, mushrooms, venison, squirrel and any other type of game that you can shoot. The gumbo is thickened in a number of different ways depending on how your Momma made it. Just about every artist has their own way of making the roux. Some use purely vegetables and puree them to thicken the broth. Most use butter, oil and flour cooked to dark mahogany. My brother-in-law made a gumbo that was thickened with pureed greens last weekend. It was a traditional Catholic gumbo served on meatless Lenten Fridays called gumbo des herbes. Still others add sassafras after it is cooked to thicken their gumbo gravy. Regardless of its origins, gumbo is spicy and rich. Meat is browned and then put aside while the masters add an assortment of vegetables and seasonings to the roux. It is cooked all day in some cases. And, it is ALWAYS … ALWAYS  better the next day. But, there’s not always some left the next day, so you better get it while you can.

John Folse was among the celebrity judges.

John Folse was among the celebrity judges.

Watson is having their 4th Annual Bird and Sausage Gumbo Cookoff January 25. They have at least 50 teams this year. Last year, phenomenal gumbo artist John Folse showed up along with Daddy to judge the artwork of the Watsonian Gumbo Royalty. Daddy said it was really interesting. They had different categories, and each judge made their own ratings. He also said it was really hard to pick just one. Bobbi Jo, the gumbo gallery coordinator, said there will be two cooking shows coming to film there this year and some surprise judges. The cookoff itself is a bit of a work of art. They started this thing years ago as a little yard party, and it’s grown to be quite large. DoubleDs Daiquiri’s approached them about hosting it as an event at their place of business. The proceeds go to charity, and this year’s charity is Raven’s Outreach Center, a home for homeless veterans. There will be music, dancing, a boot contest and lots and lots of gumbo. Of course there will daiquiris and beer – it wouldn’t be a redneck party without that, y’all. Bobbi Jo’s “gumbo staff” is working hard to make it a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we won’t be doing acupuncture this year, but who knows what next year might bring.

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This is the thing about art. I know when I write, I have a general idea of where I’m headed. But, art is about the moment. It is the combination of the artist interacting with the elements of her environment in that one particular span of time. Ideas come through my head that I try to squeeze into the story. I get interrupted and might not have the time I’d like to put into it. I get confused. I make mistakes. I think of stories that make it better, and I think of examples that just don’t fit and make it worse. The Gumbo Cookoff will feature some of the same uncertainty. Once it gets started Saturday morning, it will take on a life of its own, and there’s no telling what it will end up looking like in the history books. And, for each of those gumbo masters that will bring their ingredients to the gallery that day, they will lay their wooden spoon to the canvas, and they won’t know how their masterpiece will end up until it’s picked up by the judges. The good news is that anybody who puts down their $10 can try ’em out. That’s a lot of gumbo, and they – and you – will never have another gumbo like it. Whatever is made that day is a product of that day, those people and this place. There will never be another mix ….. another gumbo … just like it. It’s gonna be fun, y’all. Come on out and sample some. And tell Bobbi Jo that Sharon sent you. 🙂

For details, see the Facebook Page.

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