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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Southern Gumbo Trail


Terryl Jackson

Terryl Jackson grew up in Houma, Louisiana eating his mother’s gumbo, a “collage” of turkey necks, ham bits, chicken, crab, shrimp, okra, and filé. That final ingredient, the cured and ground leaves of the sassafras tree, defines his mother’s gumbo, giving it an herbal-earthy flavor not unlike lemon verbena, as well as a greenish tint.

The customers at Prejean’s Restaurant, where Terryl was executive chef at the time of this interview, tend to prefer more Cajun-styled gumbos, or gumbos wherein a dark roux is the prominent characteristic. Prejean’s daily menu offers at least three roux gumbos: a deep, dark smoked duck and andouille gumbo; a chicken gumbo made with smoked sausage; and a lighter-bodied seafood gumbo of crab, shrimp, crawfish, and oysters if you ask for them. In order to sample what Terryl calls Prejean’s “world-famous” pheasant, quail, and andouille gumbo, you have to attend the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (or one of the other festivals that Prejean’s frequents), for which they prepare four tons of it.

Terryl learned to cook from his mother and his grandmother, as well as from working in restaurants from the age of sixteen. He worked throughout the South, learning about different world cuisines, before settling back home—or close to home. He continues to identify most with his Creole, filé gumbo-making roots.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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