Mimi’s Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Tribute to Pam Bushnell

By Megan Bushnell, Harvest Market Kitchen Manager

Two Generations Making RouxMy memory bank is filled with a rich mingling of food, family, friends and love. Most of things I make in my kitchen can be traced to a particular moment, frozen in time, where I first encountered the dish. I know where I was, who I was with, and the smells and tastes of that first bite. The connections between sharing food, sharing love and sharing recipes are all one.

There is one smell for me that goes back further than I can remember. That is the smell of a roux. I don’t remember the first time I encountered it because it has always been there. It is the smell of comfort, the smell of love, the smell of coming home at Christmas to my Grammy’s house in Hammond, Louisiana. It is the smell of my own mother’s kitchen (Mimi’s kitchen) transporting us all back home to our culinary roots through our bellies.

“First you make a roux” are the opening words of many South Louisiana recipes. It is the base of gumbo, étouffée, and piquant and is made by stirring fat and flour together over a flame until the color reaches the right shade; for Mimi’s Gumbo, this is the color of pecan shells or dark milk chocolate. Making roux takes constant stirring and attention. As my mother would say, “ You can not leave the stove, not even to pick up the phone or answer the door!” And it can easily take an hour to get a roux to the right color without burning it. For the beginner, at around the 45-minute mark, you will have your doubts and need to call your mother to make sure you are still on track. She will reassure you that “it will change color, just keep stirring!” And sure enough it does.

During her 74 years of life, my mom, Pam, the “Mimi” of Mimi’s Gumbo Ya-Ya, shared her food, love and recipes with anyone who needed them. You could count on her to bring by a pot of gumbo or some other homemade dinner to anyone who needed the love and support that only good food can provide. My mom was especially pleased to have her gumbo appear on the Harvest Market Kitchen’s shelf. When I asked if it was okay to use her recipe at work, she said “Of course! As long as you call it Mimi’s Gumbo Ya-Ya!”

Though I can no longer pick up the phone for “recipe reassurance”, my mom’s legacy will live on in me through her gumbo and the many other recipes we shared. I can think of no better tribute to my mom, than to cook good food with love and care, and then share it with the world. So, “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (“Let the good times roll!”).