The weekend after Thanksgiving, like many New Orleanians, I typically prepare gumbo. From the turkey leftovers, I trim off the remaining meat, make a homemade broth and splurge on Andouille sausage.
From essentially nothing, this incredibly savory pot of leftovers becomes a multi-dimensional and satisfying bowl of warmth.
Home cooking is such an important part of our family’s daily ritual, and I can only name a couple of other cooking techniques I enjoy more than preparing a chocolate-colored roux. Those 30 minutes or so required to create a dark roux are a perfect time for reflections. My thoughts on that particular day drifted toward the origin of the combination of three common vegetables, fondly called the “holy trinity” in our local cuisine – and, how making a pot of gumbo is very much like marriage.
From initial reaction, one would think that oil and flour would not mix. But, with time and effort, it becomes the base to this amazing, comforting dish.
The union of these two very different ingredients can be compared to the beginning of any marriage, where man and woman are unique, with different backgrounds, thoughts and experiences destined to become one upon the sacrament of matrimony.
In their differences they actually complement one another, similar to hot oil and flour that, with time, nurturing and patience, become intertwined, darken and ultimately form the foundation and building block for gumbo – like marriage is the building block of God’s kingdom, the Catholic Church and society.
The addition of the holy trinity – chopped onions, celery and green peppers – to the roux as the foundation of the dish quickly bonds together, similar to the lifelong bond of unity between a man and woman and of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are united as one with no beginning or end.
This new texture is a symbolism of the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and his people, even with each ladle of broth added.
Each gumbo recipe is as unique as each marriage, reflecting cultural traditions, region, economics, experience and available “ingredients,” just like sacred Scriptures and the tradition of the Catholic Church and the sacrament of matrimony. Some households enjoy and prefer tomatoes, shellfish, okra, filé powder or duck, just to name a few.
In each marriage, these ingredients might equate to children, extended family, jobs, commitment to their parish and community – which are all ingredients that give flavor, fragrance and varying consistencies to any marriage, just like any savory addition in gumbo.
Some recipes flourish with their ingredients, while others need additional elements or the elimination of spices or protein to intensify the palate.
After creating gumbo countless times, one thing I have observed. It is not an easy dish to achieve. It takes practice, dedication, commitment and is almost a mystery – any two pots never come out exactly the same in their flavoring, consistency and fragrance, as it evolves with time.
But in the end, the gumbo is always hearty and fulfilling, right down to the last spoonful. Marriage, too, is a great mystery that parallels the love of Christ for his church and is a sign of God’s love for us, in its endless blessings and grace.
What “ingredients” are in your gumbo (marriage)?
Ana Batista Borden is a native New Orleanian, wife, mother, architect and Roman Catholic. She and husband Brad juggle their own businesses while finding balance navigating life with little ones in the Catholic faith and as active parishioners at their church. She enjoys walking adventures with her family, wedding cake snowballs and drawing and painting anything that has to do with buildings. Her favorite quote is from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”