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Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Ask any self-respecting Louisianan who makes the best gumbo and the answer is universal: “Momma.” The product of a melting pot of culinary influences, gumbo, in fact, reflects the diversity of the people who cooked it up: French aristocrats, West Africans in bondage, Cajun refugees, German settlers, Native Americans—all had a hand in the pot. What is it about gumbo that co ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  70 ratings  ·  25 reviews


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Diane S ☔
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 All things Gumbo, the quisessential staple of Louisiana. In many homes baby's first food. The difference between Cajun and Creole, which i found fascinating. The many nationalities that contributed to gumbo. It has been around for 250 years, since 1764, though of course ingredients have changed. Don't think many still make it using lard, but then who knows. Not everyone is health conscious.

Houma, Louisiana, where Wells was born, his family's history, and his love of his mother's gumbo. Some
...more
Cynda
Why I read this book.

This book speaks to me because I often make a not-quite gumbo chicken soup. The last time I made a roux-less gumbo? maybe about 3 or years ago. I thickened with okra. I may try file'/ground sassafrass. Good-enough andouille is available here at a local supermarket or two. I just have not made the time. I am feeling inspired now.

Like many people described in this book, I learned to make roux-less gumbo from a family member. I learned from my son's other grandmother. She was b
...more
Janet
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

Ask any self-respecting Louisianan who makes the best gumbo and the answer is universal: “Momma.”
The product of a melting pot of culinary influences, gumbo, in fact, reflects the diversity of the people who cooked it up: French aristocrats, West Africans in bondage, Cajun refugees, German s
...more
June Shaw
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bonnie's boy takes us into his momma's kitchen for the ultimate gumbo that she created and guides us along with him through the gumbo belt to see how this wonderful dish came to be and how it's evolved. Numerous people make their gumbo different ways, and almost all of them are good. With his special charm in writing, he reminds us of whose gumbo was always best.
 wade
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its hard to believe you could write an entire book on Gumbo. This is not quite that. It involves the chefs,(their background) recipes, habitats of ingredients and the spread of Louisiana cuisine across the nation. Of course, this is partially a biography of the author and his family but goes way beyond this. Frankly the reason I read this was I am in a signed first edition book club but now I am going to the grocery looking to buy Cajun and Creole products. Great book for a narrow audience.
Cat
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book! it made me smile reading it. While I'm not from Louisiana, or even French, I enjoy reading about other cultures and particularly Cajun and Creole cultures. I've never eaten gumbo or jambalaya, but have heard about them my entire life! I really just need to get to New Orleans someday to taste the regional dishes. But in the mean time, there are numerous gumbo recipes collected in this book! Thank you, Ken Wells!
Judy Williams
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ken Wells serves up more than the many delicious ways to cook gumbo in this unexpectedly-moving book. He captures a culture and a way of life that make Louisiana the unique state it is. Reading this book brought back memories of my French grandmother and great-grandmother and reminded me of the wonderful gumbos I have made and eaten, and of the pride I feel in living here.
Lynne Thompson
Ken Wells, a journalist with serious cred (he was editor and writer at the Wall Street Journal, for starters) has now brought his considerable writing and reporting skills to a subject long close to his heart - the Gumbo Belt and Pantry of southern Louisiana. Part memoir (with recipes!), part journalistic reporting on the history of Cajun and Creole culture from New Orleans to Texas, and the foodways of the area, Wells writes beautifully of his homeland. He hails from the bayou near Houma, south ...more
Skye
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(Review for the SCAPC newsletter)

“Ask any self-respecting Louisianan who makes the best gumbo and the answer is universal: ‘Momma.’” In this newly published culinary memoir, Houma-native Ken Wells shines the spotlight on gumbo and celebrates the spirit of Louisiana home cooking.

Wells starts by giving the history of gumbo, showing the interweaving of cultures that influenced the dish: Creole, Cajun, West African, Native American, even Italian and German. He recounts how gumbo became famous, exten
...more
Kendall
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I need to preface my review by saying that I'm a vegetarian. This book is more aimed at carnivores, and I'm sure Wells would find my vegetarian gumbo sacrilegious, though he proves to be an adventurous eater. And no, I wouldn't put quinoa in soup and call it gumbo as Disney apparently did (though quinoa soup is delicious in its own right). So maybe Wells will forgive me.

Anyone who is a fan of Louisiana culture or of great food writing will find a lot to love in this book, whether or not you eat
...more
Doctor Moss
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-south
I’m a big fan of Ken Wells’ novel Meely LaBauve, and its sequels about growing up and living in South Louisiana. Wells of course is also a journalist, and this is the real story of his own life and roots in South Louisiana. It’s all tied together by gumbo — eating gumbo, cooking gumbo, and just talking about gumbo — as a kind of cultural anchor for the region and the people.

Gumbo serves the purpose. It’s not just that gumbo is such a core regional dish for the Cajun community that Wells comes fr
...more
Ashlie
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cbr-11, cbr11bingo
CBR Bingo - Birthday! I don't think I'm alone in this, but at the launch of CBR Bingo I already had a few books in the queue so I am doing what I can to find space on the bingo card for them, at times having to pull off a bit of a shoehorn situation. And thus, I discovered the Ken Wells' birthday was August 5th. BOOM. SQUARED. Also, after reading this book, I sent the following Facebook message to the author. No response yet, but starting my review with it as I think it gives context into my rea ...more
Bookworm
Sep 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Needed a change of pace book and thought this would be a good read. I don't know much about gumbo or US Southern food so this seemed like a great book. I had the vague idea of what gumbo is, but I also understood that there was any number of influences or histories or sources so I was curious to see what Wells would say.

In a mix of memoir, history, foodie examination, Wells takes the reader through what gumbo is, the peoples involved in what it is today, what its place is in cuisine, who eats it
...more
Joe
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Savoring "Gumbo Life". Ken Wells, you are so much fun to read. I was always a Jamie Lee Burke reader and enjoyed New Iberia, but got tired of his family and friends being killed in every book.

Especially enjoy stories about squirrel brains, capturing snakes and all the fine gumbo chefs. Oh, yeah, and your grandmother "murdering" chickens. Reminds me of my Grandmother Rose, the midwife of SW Pa, who killed chickens while raising six children. Probably because she had six children.

Dizzy about maki
...more
Cindy
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wells explains Cajuns, backwoods life, and the power of gumbo as perhaps only he could -- someone from this wonderful place who went on to a long journalism career at the Wall Street Journal. Of Louisiana cooking and the many cultures that created it, he says, "It's the story of jazz but writ in food, and gumbo is the high note." After his mother serves gumbo to her big family, tastes it, and knows it's good: ". . . my mother is at peace, totally certain she has created something that flies so c ...more
Dominique King
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stumbled across this one on the "New books" shelves in my local library, so it was a serendipity pick. I've always loved spicy Cajun/creole food, and this was a nice primer about the food, the differences between the two and gumbo tales from an author who grew up deep in the heart of Louisiana gumbo country...and continues to eat, cook and spread the gospel of gumbo with, among other things, this new book. I loved learning more about the cuisine, even if I have no gift for such soulful booking.. ...more
Adam
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Slowly winds like a bayou through the past and present of gumbo, the City of New Orleans, and the author’s family history, mainly set in and around Houma, Louisiana. After the first 100 pages I wondered how much more there was to say about this iconic dish, but the author keeps it interesting, gives us a tour of New Orleans, his hometown of Houma and surrounding areas, the ins and outs of how to prepare several types of gumbo. I enjoyed reading it, and finished hungry.
Kate
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a fun read and desperately made me want to go back to New Orleans. I enjoyed all the food talk and the history of gumbo but it felt like something was missing. Even though the Wells grew up in the area eating gumbo from the minute he was born, the writing felt a bit too reporter-y and near the end I noticed quite a few errors (which always bothers me, maybe more than it should). Overall I liked the book and it took me back to one of my favorite places on Earth.
Deborah
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: advanced-read
I received an ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The history of gumbo is long and intense. So many variations, so many opinions. Ken Wells does a good job of covering the many sides. His own background adds even more flavor. I don't know how anyone could read this without getting hungry.
Nancy
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Living in Louisiana and being a southern girl I really enjoyed this book. It is a history of gumbo and how it has been passed down through the ages and how many cultures have added to its development. There are lots of stories of growing up in and around Black Bayou often featuring what went in the gumbo pot. I have given several of these books as gifts and they have been well received also.
Monique
Fantastic. Will make you crave Gumbo. Loved it.
Cynthia Simmons
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful wonderful story!
Terrie Sanders white
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this one.
Connie Schneider
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anyone from Louisiana would love this book!
Marian Wallace
informative, entertaining and now I'm dying for some gumbo!!!
Brenton L
rated it liked it
Dec 07, 2019
Ken Wells
rated it it was amazing
Apr 18, 2019
Mr Troy
rated it really liked it
Apr 05, 2020
Roryz
rated it really liked it
May 13, 2019
Stacey
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Oct 16, 2019
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