Very quickly, before I hit the road, let me invite you to come visit me in Pontchatoula tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 27th). I will be one of a panel of judges for the Annual Pontchatoula High School Football Booster Club Gumbo Cookoff. Benefits go toward a scholarship fund in honor of a football player who was injured during a game, many years ago. It’s a worthy cause, and for $5 at the gate, you can eat as much gumbo as you like. I think the gate opens at 11 a.m. for the public.
Granted, after tasting about three dozen different gumbos, I personally don’t want to see, much less taste, gumbo for quite a while. The two categories are “chicken and sausage” and “seafood”. To be quite candid, over the past five years that I’ve been judging this, I have tasted everything from glorified dishwater to delicous gumbo, simmered to perfection with just the right flavors and textures.
After we’ve chosen the top gumbo in the two categories, we then taste them AGAIN and choose the overall winner. Now, THAT is the coveted award—a huge trophy and bragging rights for an entire year. There’s lots of good-hearted competition between entrants, lots of heckling, and lots of top-secret components and ingredients. Some folks even come from other states at a chance to win the coveted award for best gumbo of the year.
So, the competitors are many, and the competition is stiff. My biggest problem is this: To eat breakfast before this judging or not? I mean, I love my morning coffee, but I just don’t think I could stomach all these gumbos on an empty stomach. Does that make sense?
In the past, I’ve judged alongside outdoor broadcaster Don Dubuc and his sidekick and good friend, Hokie Gajan, who played running back for the New Orleans saints 1982-1985. After the judging, which ends around 12:30, I will be helping sell “Hokie Tough” t-shirts to benefit cancer research. You see, Hokie was diagnosed with cancer last fall. I’m not sure if he will be there tomorrow hanging a lip over some of the best (and worst) gumbos ever made, but he will definitely be there in spirit. And if you care to hang around, there will also be local arts and crafts for sale until the awards are announced at 2 p.m. Oh, and there’s a live band, plus Pontchatoula is loaded with quaint antique shops to visit all day, too. How can you go wrong?
So, if you’re in south Louisiana and have nothing to do Saturday, the weather is supposed to be beautiful, and the cookoff benefits a great cause. Why not come on out and get yourself $5 worth of gumbo and a Hokie Tough t-shirt to go?
I look forward to seeing you there!
As always, I welcome comments and questions!