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Where Y’Eat: How the holidays and Louisiana food combine for something real

Gumbo in its many varities satisfies more than just a hunger in Louisiana.
Ian McNulty
Creole gumbo is a Louisiana staple

Don’t you just love the fall colors in Louisiana? Let’s take a tour.

There’s the chocolate brown of a dark country gumbo, the polished mahogany of a seafood gumbo and the tawny, speckled roux of a Creole gumbo.

There’s the polished-steel gray of gleaming oysters, now getting into the groove of their season, traced by the marble-like white of the inner shell around them.

There’s the rusty-red or earthy-brown of a jambalaya (depending on how tomato figures in your tradition — essential or verboten). And there’s the elemental black of the iron pot around it, dragged out from the bottom of the cupboard for another football weekend. Who wins the game? You, so long as the Louisiana food is rolling right.

Who’s ready for dessert? Let’s go there. Sweet potato pie dances along that line of sweet and savory that induces such cravings and will always stir a feeling of home. And between the crust, filling and topping of a pecan pie you get a rainbow of earthen hues. It sticks to your teeth and clings to your taste memory.

Forget pumpkin spice and the forever overblown marketing ploys that come at you from the brands and chains. Louisiana owns this seasonal palate in a way that’s real and personal.

This time of year always goes by fast for me. Summer is a slog, and now apparently lasts til Halloween. Then suddenly it’s November and it gets dark early and everything is more frantic, a tumble of plans and obligations racing to year’s end. Louisiana food like this reminds me to slow down.

This tour of colors and flavors is more than pretty and it’s even more than delicious. It’s a representation of place and people, a culture, one that we can create ourselves and share with anyone. It’s one that connects us even through all the pressures that seem to drive us apart.

Right now, with the holidays here and gratitude on our minds, I’m reminding myself how fortunate we are to have all this on our table.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.