How to Make a Gumbo

The roux is everything. It cannot be rushed, there are no shortcuts. It is finicky, precise, requiring your constant attention, otherwise it will burn in an instant and the whole thing is shot to hell. The only way is to stand over it – flour and butter– and smoke three Vantage cigarettes end to end, stirring until the desired shade of brown. Between inhales, tell your children about patience and the importance of slowing down.

Next add the Holy Trinity: onion, celery, green peppers. Cook until softened. Add three cups broth and change into a terrycloth jumper before deboning the chicken and cutting up the sausage. You only go to this kind of trouble for people you love, so call the kids back to the kitchen. Laugh loudly and ask questions while your son tells you about his latest video game. When your daughter moodily rests her chin on the bar, draw out the story of the sneering girl in the Guess jeans.

 The author and her mother, in her signature terrycloth jumper

The author and her mother, in her signature terrycloth jumper

The okra will be slimy if added directly. Boil it for 3-5 minutes first, drain, then add. For a secret kick, throw in a can of Rotel tomatoes. Tony Chachere’s and pepper to taste (only a Yankee would add sea salt). Simmer with 2 bay leaves. 

Eat standing up while fetching the kids sparkling grape juice and more rice. When you’re gone, your daughter will create a mythology about your selfless love and won’t realize until she's 40 that virtue is not necessarily born of self-sacrifice. 

Freezes well.

- Elizabeth Beauvais is a writer and independent sustainability consultant.  For twenty years, her writing and editing largely focused on food justice and security, environmental policy and corporate social responsibility, but now she's hard at work to develop her creative side in narrative nonfiction through her blog at and through other channels.