New Orleans. The birthplace of jazz and Louis Armstrong. World renowned for its bold and distinctive fusion cuisine combining European, African, and Native American influences. Some of The Big Easy's most popular specialties include Po' boys, beignets, jambalaya, and gumbo. What is gumbo, you ask? Oh, nothing. Just a multicultural melting pot of rich and complex flavors. Drooling already? Gross. Wipe off your face and get ready because we're taking a trip into food history. 

Warning: Reading past this point may result in unseemly amounts of drool, attempts to lick your screen, and multiple foodgasms. Also be prepared for lots more Princess and the Frog .gifs. Deal wit' it.

Let's start with the basics. Gumbo is a soup thickened with okra pods or filé and containing meat or seafood and usually vegetables. Scholars seem to agree that gumbo originated in Louisiana in the early 18th century.

However, a mystery surrounds this dish's precise origins. Its name is generally agreed to derive from ki ngombo, the term for okra in the Central Bantu dialect of West Africa, the homeland of many of the slaves brought to colonial Louisiana. Okra stews, served with rice, were a staple food among those slaves. Okra is the main thickening agent in many (though not all) varieties of gumbo.

A photo posted by nbochler (@nbochler) on

On the other hand, there are those that believe that we owe respect to the French for the miracle that is gumbo. Many gumbos achieve their thickness, color, and texture partly from the use of a roux, the mixture of flour and oil employed by French cooks as early as the 14th century. (Side note: Interestingly, gombo is the French word for okra.)

Anyhow, there are many more theories surrounding the origin story of this Louisiana favorite but we're gonna move things along.

Tracing gumbo's roots is further complicated by the fact that no African Americans recorded their recipes in cookbooks until after the Civil War, but in the early 19th century, recipes for gumbo started to appear in articles written by white authors. 

By the late 1830s, New Orleans newspapers were incorporating gumbo into sayings as a sort of well-loved local dish. In 1838, the Times-Picayune commented, "Secret of Health—live light and eat plenty of gumbo." Documented proof that gumbo was giving them ALL KINDS of life.

It is said that gumbo gained its popularity in the 1970s thanks to Louisiana senator Allen Ellender. Ellender was known for his superb Cajun cooking and enjoyed sharing his recipes with numerous presidents and political figures. After his death in 1972, the Senate directed that their cafeteria add Louisiana Creole Gumbo to its menu in his honor. To this day, "Ellender's Gumbo" is served. 

Yeah, yeah, I made you learn something. 

Gumbo is essentially an edible metaphor. Much like the cultures in this region, gumbo is a rich and diverse blend. It's made up of varying flavors and cooking techniques each equally fantastic on their own but together, they create a culinary symphony.

(Be honest, this gumbo has you catching feelings, huh? Get the recipe via Cook & Be Merry.) 

seafood, shellfish, crab, lobster, fish, goody
Benjamin Martin

So what other ingredients go into a bomb gumbo? Here's the thing: we've already learned that there are countless gumbo-making techniques that are used by the people in this region. So naturally, lots of people use different ingredients. Often, the dish is made with seafood such as crab, shrimp, and craw-fish.

However, chicken and andouille sausage are also commonly used proteins. The spice level of this dish varies depending on the type of recipe you use. Anything from Cajun seasoning to Cayenne pepper can be used.

Real talk. Is this the kind of meal that will take longer than a cup of ramen to make? Yes. But trust me, not only will it be worth it, you'll have leftovers worthy of #foodporn.