Alabama Coasting 2018 - Page 10

DAUPHIN ISLANDERS - FIRST TO DINE ON GUMBO IN AMERICA March 19, 2013. Historians and scholars, while researching seemingly unrelated historical facts, have stumbled upon a most amazing culinary discovery. As these details are published, they threaten to rock the foundations of southern seafood culture. While scholars agree that gumbo originated in Louisiana in the early 18th century, its uncertain etymology makes it difficult to pinpoint the origins of the food. It is believed that the name of the finished product comes from the Angolan word for okra, guingombo, a vegetable introduced to the region by African slaves, or to the Choctaw word for sassafras powder, kombo ashish. Historical documents and anecdotal evidence allow us to develop a “gumbo” timeline: In 1702, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de’ Bienville established a deepwater port and fort on Massacre Island (later renamed Dauphin Island) and moved the capital of Louisiana to Mobile. This would become the primary port for French shipping to and from the central Gulf area throughout the early 1700’s. Although he also built a new settlement on the west side of the Mobile River at 27 Mile Bluff, he maintained lodgings on the island. In 1704, in part due to fear the fraternization of French soldiers with native females may lead to conflict, Bienville arranged for the importation of twenty-four young French women. By tradition, the young ladies were selected from convents, though most were likely from poor families, and they traveled to the New World with their possessions in small trunks known as cassettes, thus they are known in local histories as “The Cassette Girls” in early accounts or “The Pelican Girls” (for the ship 10 ALABAMA COASTING’S DAUPHIN ISLAND LIFE Pelican that brought them). The women were destined for Fort Louis at Twenty- Seven Mile Bluff, but with Massacre Isle being the port of all French ships coming and going on the gulf coast at the time, the women were on the island for a time before being transported to the settlement on the mainland. The young ladies were lodged in Bienville’s home under the care of his housekeeper, a French-Canadian woman, Madame Langlois. According to legend, okra was introduced in southeastern North America by these “Pelican Girls” who got it from African slaves in the West Indies. Madame Langlois had learned from local native tribes the arts of cooking local produce and imparted this knowledge to her charges. She made a fish stew in which she used filé powder (made from dried sassafras) with a few French touches - and now with the addition of okra - Gumbo was served. When Bienville moved the capital of Louisiana to New Orleans, Madame Langlois moved with him. To ease the transition for newly settled French women, she would invite them into her kitchen and teach this unique fusion cuisine combining French culinary traditions with local ingredients and the food ways of nearby Indian tribes. Langlois’ historic classes became, essentially, the first cooking school in America and she is heralded as the “Mother of Creole Cuisine.” The annual Dauphin Island Gumbo Festival takes place the third weekend in April. You’re invited to experience this seafood delicacy in the “home” of Gumbo! 2018 Willow Tree Cottage Overlooking Aloe Bay, Mississippi Sound and the Dauphin Island Bridge Available for Short and Long Term Rental Call: 251-861-2642 Text: 251-622-0457