The Great Food Debate

And so it begins, the great food debate. Mashed potatoes or no? Naked green beans or green bean casserole? Mac-n-cheese and, if so, what kind? (I’m not gonna give ink to the dressing or stuffing debate ’cause stuffing isn’t a real food–it’s a cut up mattress found in an abandoned warehouse sprinkled with some Cavender’s.) Those participating in this annual Thanksgiving ritual feign surprise: no celery casserole? No marshmallows on your sweet potatoes (we who NEVER would deign to eat a marshmallow in real life huff and puff if its missing from the casserole.) And don’t you dare call them yams.

The NOLA Food Debate

Here, in NOLA, the great food debate zeroes in on one particular food: gumbo.

I’m a mere bystander in the gumbo debate, as I will take gumbo anyway you wanna give it to me. I mean, as long as it has okra. (Yes, amazingly some folks think you can make gumbo without okra.) Moving off of that, the debate swirls around rice/ no rice. Seafood/no seafood. Dark roux/I-have-no-idea-what-you-use-if-not-a-dark-roux. But the most amazing question is this: do you take your gumbo with potato salad or not?


If you’re not from Louisiana, this might sound like the strangest question in the whole world. Because by “with,” I mean “in.” The potato salad goes in the gumbo. A big ol’ ice cream scoop plopped IN THE GUMBO. This isn’t an Internet fad, it’s the real deal. Nor is it limited to New Orleans. Though folks here one hundred percent embrace it. If you ask somebody, “Really? You do that?“ The answer you get is: “Well, I’m from here.“

So what are the hot questions in the great food debate in your house?

Not part of the great food debate, these are Thumb Prayers I’ll give out at church tomorrow for those living on the streets

great food debate, gumbo in new orleans, potato salad in the gumbo, thanksgiving good debates

Comments (8)

  • I still have one of your thumb prayers and I know thing or two about gumbo:
    1) no okra; no gumbo.
    2) seafood is good; so is duck.
    3) chicken not so much, but
    4) no sausage; no gumbo and the sausage has to be andouille.
    5) no rice in the gumbo, no gumbo
    6) around here people take their gumbo seriously and they DO NOT MESS IT UP with potato salad. Potato salad is fine as a side, but if you put in the gumbo, you will have a fight on your hands.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Yay for having one of the Thumb Prayers!

      I mean, potato salad IN the gumbo. Have your ever? Many people I admire and respect slop that potato salad in their gumbo. I’m grateful you’re not one of them. I simply do not know where this started, but folks from NOLA are all over it. (And I almost wouldn’t recognize gumbo without the rice 🙂 )

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      I quietly admit that I don’t like sweet potato pie. Or pumpkin pie. Or any other vegetable masquerading as dessert. Sooooo glad you aren’t on the potato salad-in-gumbo train–who ever? Happy Thanksgiving! (from me and Tom 🙂

  • I don’t think I have ever eaten gumbo…

    It wasn’t a debate but we decided on a non-traditional dinner this year. My spouse offered to make individual beef Wellingtons, which were delicious. Even though there were only five of us, we did have two pies, one pumpkin and one (very) high-top apple.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Ah, you must leave space for one day eating real New Orleans gumbo. I would offer to mail you some, but I did that in exchange for some graphic design work once and it cost an arm and a leg. 🙂
      Your choice of T’giving food sounds delicious, especially the high-top apple, which I believe I can envision but have never heard that term before. The joy of local food…

      • LOL – High-top apple pie is the happy result of paring and slicing so many apples that they mound high over the dish. As the apples compress a bit while cooking, the crust winds up being domed over the filling. This link should open a side view of a slice of the pie on my husband’s grandparents’ china that we inherited. I tried to paste the photo into the comment, but it didn’t work. With luck, the link does…

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