You might be asking, “Rev. Badger, what on earth are you talkin’ about?” Stick around and you’ll see. Now, on to today’s topic:
Traditions and dyed-in-the-wool customs, some might argue, are the foundations of what makes a people who they are. Those most sacred and meaningful instructions and modalities from the past are enshrined in a people’s folxoul - the intertwining, shared people-spirit of a group or subgroup - and it’s here where respect for the past begins.
As life moves forward and we grow and change, we are exposed to a greater world beyond our own families and subcultures, and it’s in that exploring where an openness to things that are new and different enter into the individual consciousness. If we’re practicing Courage and can find our curiosity, we might even try these new things. Sometimes, we’ll go so far as to embrace these new ways and customs that we can celebrate diversity and differences more fully through our human experience.
What’s all this got to do with fish sauce and gumbo?
Before the Vietnam war, Louisiana was populated with a lot more European folx, percentage-wise, and gumbo was influenced by those cultures. Before continuing, I believe it’s important to note that without the Senegalese slaves and Louisiana’s local First Nations tribes (Choctaw, Chitimacha, Houma, etc.) bringing okra and sassafras root, the two seminal things that made original gumbo what it was, there would have been nothing for the Europeans to build upon. Spices and peppers from the Spanish, cured meats from the Germans and the Polish, thickening roux from the French… over time, these things from gumbo’s future started, one by one, to become the present of the dish.
After the Vietnam war, many refugees and asylum-seekers from the fall of Saigon came to Louisiana to find a new home, and claim their piece of the promises made to them by the US. Once there, they were easily swept into the seafood culture of Louisiana, and before you knew it, some of their culinary staples made their way into the mix… hence, fish sauce in gumbo.
I’ve yet to try it, although I’ve promised friends and congregants that the next time I make gumbo, I’m going to add the fish sauce.
Not every family knows their culinary history; however, I’m blessed to be able to tell the story of my family’s gumbo, and I look forward to the day where fish sauce can be a part of it. Why? Because Asian people are now a part of MY people… a part of Louisiana.
While obsessing over and honoring gumbo’s past, we couldn’t have possibly known that fish sauce would be in its future…
… and the pragmatic thing to do would be to stay open to its presence.
(See y’all tomorrow)