John Laudun grew up primarily in Baton Rouge, eating a sausage-free, medium-dark-roux, seafood gumbo that his father prepared in a style typical of St. Mary’s Parish. Or was it? After tens and hundreds of years of cultural mingling in Louisiana, are particular gumbo styles still tied to particular places? Is there an absolute holy trinity of seasoning vegetables, like the celery-green-pepper-onion gumbo starter used by so many New Orleans Creole cooks? But what about the greater emphasis on green onions and filé in the Cane River region? And what about garlic, so important to the Bayou Teche area? These are the sorts of questions that a folklorist specializing in material folk culture enjoys pondering on a Thursday morning in Lafayette while a deluge makes a lake of his backyard. Laudun was deep into gumbo research prior to the hurricanes of 2005, the complex aftermath of which drove him to table a book project. He had devoted many days to fieldwork, conducting interviews with gumbo cooks all around the state. While his manuscript-in-progress sits on a shelf for now, he has not abandoned the topic. Obviously. The following interview (in its entirety) could inspire a curriculum for a graduate course on Louisiana gumbo traditions.
Date of interview:
September 13, 2007