06 October 2008

IrishGumbo, Explained

Curious, aren't you? You want to know, but are perhaps hesitant to ask. After all, who the hell has ever heard of Irish Gumbo?

I have. The name of the blog came to me after a lot of serious thinking, consideration, a few naps, plus one or two beers. Not all in the same day! I wanted something cool, innovative, that maybe described who or what I am (metaphorically, of course). I thought of some names I have been called over the years, like 'dipshit', 'blockhead', 'sensitive'. 'Chowderhead' even, but I didn't get that until I was in college. I like chowder, but still. None of those had the charm, the bling, the (dare I say?) 'elan' I was looking for. Consider this: 'www.dipshit.blogspot.com'. Catchy, but not exactly the image I was wanted to present.

Names are VERY important. Know anyone named Nimrod? Neither do I. Probably good reasons for that.

(Disclaimer: No offense intended to anyone out there who is actually named Nimrod. It's just not that common. Plus, it's all Biblical-like, and nowadays it has an association with words like 'dork'. If I do meet anyone named Nimrod, I will be sure to treat them with the dignity they deserve. At least until they show they really are a dork.)

So, whither 'Irish Gumbo'? The Irish part was easy. I have a fair amount of Irish blood in my lineage, plus my last name is Shea, and Guinness is my favorite malt beverage. Irish seemed a natch. The gumbo? That's a bit more complicated.

I am not Creole, Cajun, or from Louisiana. I didn't know from gumbo until a trip to New Orleans some years ago. I didn't even make the stuff for the first time until about six years ago. But once I did I fell in love with it. I owe a debt to Emeril Lagasse's 'Real and Rustic' cookbook (which I still have) for getting me started on the path. I have been tinkering with it ever since.

There a lots of ways to make a gumbo, and many folks never make it quite the same way twice. Start with a roux, most say, but from there who knows? Use andouille sausage or chicken or oysters or turkey or shrimp. Or all. Or some. Bell peppers/onions/celery (the Holy Trinity). Or some. You can use greens (gumbo z'herbes) if you don't want meat. In that case, probably not a roux either. Maybe okra or file powder. I use garlic sometimes. I've been known to throw in a pinch or two of smoked paprika on occasion - but I'm not a heretic! And you know what? Only once have I made a bad gumbo. And that's because I was in a hurry, and didn't take CARE of it. Aside from that, it's all good.

The point (and I do have one) is that everyone agrees that gumbo exists, even if hardly anyone can agree on exactly what goes in it. You take all sorts of good stuff, put it in a pot with the dark mystery that is roux and a few hours later - MMMMM, MMM! - there it is. All anyone knows is that 'Gumbo, c'est bon, c'est tout' (Gumbo, it's good - that's all there is to it). My apologies to Emeril, I hope I got that quote right.

So there I was, driving my daily commute on the Trail Of Boredom, and out of the blue it came to me: THY BLOG NAME SHALL BE 'IRISHGUMBO', YOU CHOWDERHEAD. The Voice was right. No refuting it.

The fact is, I don't know exactly what is in me. Some darkness, some light, some spice as well. I have hope that it's all good, and who knows? With a little time and attention, I just might turn out to be a mighty fine pot of gumbo. So good, ya hurt yaself!


  1. hahaha.
    want to hear something funny?
    i went to elementary school with a kid named Nimrod.
    true story.
    i swear.
    apparently, it's a hebrew name. and his parents are assholes, obviously.

  2. Good man you listened to the voices. They will always steer you correctly?

    Love Gumbo by the way...

  3. I met a Nimrod once, my one and only. Nimrod Spitz. We were stuck waiting for a tiny plane to take us out of a village called Lukla. There was a huge llineup of us, all stuck, waiting to be ladled out of there 16 people (plane's capacity) at a time. Then we met again in Kathmandu. He's Israeli; I met a lot of Israelis in Katmandu. The impression I got was that there aren't a lot of places in the world where Israelis can easily get passports--don't know if my impression is correct. This was 1982 and the idea seemed plausible enough. Sort of a revelation too about the tensions in the world.

    He said that even in Israel his is an unusual name.

  4. Ok now I get it! Thanks for clarifying that one! Shea is usually prefixed by an O' as in O'Shea in Ireland - although during the Famine (1845-48) there were a lot of converts from Catholocism to Protestantism who dropped the O' for expediency and survival (a bit of the Rice Christian mentality was about then - largely apocryphal as a lot of good people were giving food aid without requiring conversion; of course there were some who insisted on inculcating the heathen with bible readings and many probably did convert under some duress)
    So I don't know your provenance but nowadays there is none of that nonsense judgementalism that existed up to a generation or two back (the biggest insult you could give someone was to tell them their ancestors "took the soup" meaning the food aid from the Soup Kitchens run by the churches during the famine! Incredible isn't it? I love these stories.
    All the best, Catherine.

  5. There is one thing I read about you blog that I would like to comment on. I lived in Germany for some years while I was in the Air Force. That is where I learned to love Guinness. Ever since I left Germany about 2 years ago now I've been looking for the "Real Guinness" back here in the states, everywhere I order one I get let down because its never the same strong thick dark Guinness I have learned to love in Germany. If you know of a place that serves real true Guinness let me know and I'll buy the first round.

    BTW I went to the Guinness brewery in Dublin as a trip I took while I lived in Germany, all I can say is awesome.

  6. "Some darkness, some light, some spice as well." Well put.


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