Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Do Azeris eat gumbo?

13 November 2008

Do Azeris eat gumbo?

Early this week, I asked Ana is I could cook for them on Thursday. It seems like a once a week ritual now for someone in our cluster to cook. As I have said before, it is a fun cultural exchange and (at times more importantly) a nice break for our palate. Ana loves to cook, so she eagerly jumped on the opportunity to learn a new dish. She asks me what do I need.

What do I need? I have never made a gumbo before, but I know the basic premise: a good roux. I can make a good roux. And I know I will not be able to find okra around M_____ and Sumgayit.

So my ingredients are as follows:

green beans (okra-ish)

potatoes (don’t judge, I figured I needed a filler)


sweet peppers (like bell peppers)


Thursday after lunch, I ask Ana for the green beans so I can start cutting them. She hovers around me asking to help, wanting to soak up every detail. I have never seen her so excited. Luckily, she needs to go run an errand real quick, so she cannot deem me inadequate with a knife. By the time she gets back, I have sliced the potatoes, green beans, onions, and peppers. The onions and peppers are sweating in a small pot. I know I don’t have celery to make the holy trinity, but I don’t know if celery even exists here.

It is time to start the roux.

I explain the roux is equal parts oil to flour. I am trying to impress upon her that not everything needs to be so oily. We measure out the oil, add oil and red pepper, and start to heat up the oil. As soon as it starts to pop, we add in the flour. I tell Ana that a roux must always be stirred. When it is brown enough, we add in the peppers and onions and fill pot with water. Then we place in the beans and potatoes to cook.

I cut too many green beans, and it was more stew-y than gumbo-y, but it did get to simmer for 3 hours. The roux smelled and tasted like Momo’s, so I was very content.
Ana was so thrilled to share the cooking experience, and I was equally thrilled that she enjoyed it so much. The Azeri gumbo turned out well, and even if it wasn’t a real gumbo, my cluster liked it. I will probably not have real gumbo until I go home, but the taste of home was greatly appreciated.

All the while cooking, I brought my computer into the kitchen, and we listened to Cajun music. Ana said she liked it I think she liked the accordion since it is also in Azeri music. However, I wonder if she was confused how to dance to it.

I was so happy to share my American sub-culture with Ana, my host family, and my sitemates. It was the two things Louisiana is most known for combined into one evening: music and food.

The answer is yes, if only just to please the silly American who lives with them.