Sweets were very rare in our house when I was growing up. So as a child, if I happened to get something sweet; wine gums or marshmallows or toffees, I would park it between my cheek and gum and occasionally revisit it, wedging it out and sucking it, then returning it to its spot. This not only made the sweet last longer, but allowed me to rediscover it 20 times over. To this day I still use this system, although strictly speaking there is no moratorium on how much I can have, since I live alone. I mean, who's gonna know? (The answer to this, I have discovered, is everyone, once they see your big butt). But anyway.

I feel this way about the idea of visiting New Orleans. I'm drawn to it for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, but I think it has something to do with the intersection of food, music and culture that's even a bigger melting pot than Vancouver. There is music and food there you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Very very special. And heat! They have heat. They have rain but it's not always shitty and bone-chilling damp like it is here. The history is huge. The parties are huger. It knows what it is. I love Vancouver but I get so mired down in it's endless rules and rain that my fantasies about New Orleans are growing bigger by the minute.

So I use my thoughts and plans of NOLA much like I use sweets; I park it in the corner of my mind and take it out 20 times a day. But today, I wanted to park it in my mouth too. So I made Louisiana seafood gumbo, just to satiate myself until more definite plans can be made for my visit there. One day I will just bite down hard on this dream and crack it in half against my molar. But until then, gumbo (from the Food Network with my variations):

Louisiana Seafood Gumbo

(All ingredients)

Olive oil, for sauteing
1 1/2 medium-sized onions, coarsely chopped
1 cup celery, cut crosswise into 1/3 and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
Roux, recipe follows
6 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
Stock, recipe follows
1-1/2lb shrimp, raw, deveined and peeled (save peels and tails)
2 or 3 crabs, cleaned, and chopped into chunks or 1 package pollock
Lemon slices
Chopped green onions

First, make the stock:

8 cups water
The original recipe calls for shrimp heads. However if you have bought frozen with heads removed, you can use the tails and bodies
1 stalk celery
1/2 lemon
1 bay leaf
3 basil leaves
Creole seasoning (see Jessica's Awesomesauce)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil all ingredients together for 1 hour, then strain out materials:

Set aside, then make the roux:

1/2 cup flour
Olive oil

Combine the ingredients in a separate pan. Brown on a medium high heat until it turns light brown.

Coat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add the celery, garlic, bell peppers, and okra. Add the roux and mix thoroughly to pick up all the excess oil in the pot.
Next add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. When mixed, strain the stock and add it to the pot, mixing thoroughly to prevent lumps. Cover with lid, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes. Clean the shrimp and saute in a separate pan to get rid of any excess moisture. When they have turned pink add the shrimp and crab or pollock to the gumbo. Cook for 10 minutes. Lastly, add lemon slices and chopped green onions

Oh, delicious. Notice how the roux makes this stew a little creamier than a soup, but less thick than a stew. That's Southern magic right there.

Enjoy with warm crusty bread on the side or over rice. This takes awhile but it so, so worth it. And before I exit, here's a little ode to NOLA from the man himself, Louis Armstrong. Funny to miss a place you've never been, eh?