Friday, May 26, 2017

Southern History Book(s) of the Month: Gumbo Love and Lulu's Kitchen

by Mary Anne Ellis, Librarian, Southern History Department, Central Library

Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life
Lucy Buffett

Lulu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life
Lucy Buffett
(Previously published as Crazy Sista Cooking)

It’s a Book of the Month double feature! Now that we’re nearing the end of May, people start (or have already been) thinking about vacation time, beach destinations, and great summer food. These two books by Lucy “LuLu” Buffett are bound to get you in the summertime state of mind with their mouth-watering recipes, tips for the good life—Gulf Coast style—and tidbits of personal history. In Gumbo Love, Buffett recounts how cooking was an activity that caught and kept her attention in a way that school had been unable to do:
I was always turning in assignments late or under the wire. It was more fun to dream, play make-believe, hang out with friends, or listen to music . . . There is now a diagnosis and treatment for my “scatterbrained” habits, but back in the day, when life was happening faster than my little limbs could carry me, I found a kind of solace in the summers I spent in Pascagoula, Mississippi, at the Formica-topped counter of my grandmother’s modest kitchen. Every day I would watch her cook up a massive meal and on most Fridays, a big pot of gumbo. It was the only place where I could “sit still.”
Both books are, as you might expect, loaded with tips about cooking gumbo, including the importance of a good roux as the base, and it’s not a dish for someone who’s in a hurry. LuLu’s Kitchen asserts that “Cooking gumbo can (and should) take all day.” And how do you know when to add the “Holy Trinity” of bell pepper, onion, and celery? “Baby, take it to the edge!”

However, the dishes in these books are not just for summer. Check out Cousin Mark’s Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Gumbo and the menu for Traditional UnChristmas Dinner in LuLu’s Kitchen. Or take a look at the Classic Southern Pound Cake with Strawberries in Gumbo Love, which might also pair well with Easy-Peasy Chocolate Sauce. Cake like that would fetch me any time of the year.

But more than anything else, what caught my attention about these books is the attitude that cooking is fun, an adventure to be approached with excitement. As Buffett points out in one of her “Ten Ingredients for a Bright Life and a Happy Kitchen” in Gumbo Love: "The worst that can happen is you have to throw it away and go out to eat instead—but don’t hold yourself to outrageous standards. Just be you. Cook what you love! Then others will love what you cook."

So kick off your summer with some reading that will put you in that Gulf Coast mood no matter where you live. Put on some music—maybe even by Lucy’s brother, Jimmy—and get ready for some great eating, LuLu style!

For further information:
LuLu’s at Gulf Shores Alabama
Lucy’s Summer Seafood Gumbo (includes roux instructions)
Another roux recipe
A short history of gumbo
Stars Fell on Alabama” (Jimmy Buffett recording)

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