If I had to pick one recipe that really pulls from my heartstrings, it would have to be classic gumbo. I grew up eating the recipe and I remember when I was about 14 or 15, I asked my mama how to make it. She happily showed me, taking pride in each and every step. From that point on, I always made gumbo for my friends. What I didn't realize at that moment was that her teaching me how to make the classic recipe was about so much more than simply cooking a stew- she was showing me the importance of taking your time, showing your recipe love, and take pride in cooking. At the end of the day, this is what truly makes a recipe—not simply following a list of instructions. It's about caring.
With regards to the recipe itself—I know a vegan gumbo might sound weird or counterintuitive to some. But if you ask anyone who makes a mean gumbo what really creates the magical foundation of this legendary stew, they will most likely say that it’s a combination of the roux (browned flour and oil) the trinity (onions, bell peppers, and celery) the herbs (thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper, paprika, white pepper, and bay leaves), and the most important ingredient of them all: okra. And what do you know: all of these ingredients are plant-based and therefore vegan! Plus, the word “gumbo” translates to “okra” in various West African dialects, which for me is the clearest argument that the recipe revolves around a plant-based ingredient, not meat or seafood.
The point I am trying to make here is that it's time for people to open their eyes and minds to what plant-based cooking can look like. We need to all let go of the antiquated boundaries that have been set on food and recipes. We need to stop focusing on what is different about a recipe and rather ask, "Is it delicious and was it made with love?"
Excerpted from Mississippi Vegan © 2018 by Timothy Pakron. Photography © 2018 by Timothy Pakron. Reproduced by permission of Avery. All rights reserved. —Timothy Pakron