Any Louisianian can tell you that a good gumbo is all about the roux. That’s why, when nearly 100 teams meet in the center of the sleepy little bayou town of New Iberia to compete for the top award, they are required to make their roux from scratch, on site. Yes, the competition at this festival is intense – and that just adds to the fun!
Gumbo is a stew or soup of celery, onion, bell peppers, seafood, meat and spices. Every Louisiana family has their own recipe and their own method for making the roux, and no two gumbos are the same. A roux, by the way, is flour that’s slowly browned in oil until it turns a dark brown color. A perfectly done roux makes a gumbo look and taste as thick, dark and rich as a bayou in summertime.
New Iberia, Louisiana, was founded in the late 1700s by the Spanish on the banks of the Bayou Teche, right in the heart of what’s now called “Cajun country.” The festival takes place in quaint Bouligny Plaza, within walking distance of downtown. And here’s an important detail: the gumbo doesn’t happen until Sunday. Saturday you’ll find local Cajun and Creole foods such as jambalaya, étouffée, boudin, and other festival treats, and on Sunday the big cook-off starts up, giving you the chance to sample dozens upon dozens of amazingly different gumbos.
But tasting the gumbo is only half the fun. It’s fascinating to walk around in the morning, see the cooking methods of the different teams, and talk to the cooks. You’ll find traditional chicken and sausage gumbos and seafood gumbos, plus more daring creations featuring alligator, rabbit, quail and duck. Contestants are not allowed to use electricity in their preparation process, and the “Gumbo Police” not only inspect each team’s ingredients beforehand, but also monitor the cooking throughout the day.
Make sure you arrive on Sunday before noon, as by then the gumbos are ready, winners have been selected, and the tasting has begun – and by 1 p.m. many contestants begin to run out of gumbo. Whenever you arrive, make sure you’ve got your TABASCO® Sauce!
For more information, call 337-364-1836 or visit www.iberiachamber.org.