The good news is very good indeed.
Melbourne’s mobile Gumbo Kitchen has secured a licence for Maribyrnong and its first visit to the western suburbs is in mere weeks, as opposed to months.
These glad tidings are delivered to me by Jimmy and Kurt, who are manning the truck for a Sunday visit to Brunswick Bowls Club in Victoria St.
They promise to keep me up to date with the when and the where, so when I know, you’ll know … right here on Consider The Sauce.
This news may not have been greeted by myself with such delight before sampling their wares, such has been my mood in venturing out for a first taste of Gumbo Kitchen offerings.
That mood has been laden with very low expectations and even pessimism, fostered by a number of factors …
Many visits to New Orleans and South Louisiana, so standards are high.
The cooking at home – though not so much in recent years – of my own very fine gumbos.
Inevitable disappointment spread over many years when Melbourne restaurants tried to cook anything remotely New Orleans.
Cajun this, creole that, blackened whatever?
As well, based on the behaviour of friends and some comments on Gumbo Kitchen on blogs and social media, I know very well that Australians generally just don’t understand gumbo.
It’s a soup, not a stew.
It’s meant to be runny.
Rice is just a small part of the experience – maybe 10 to 20 per cent; certainly no more than half a cup of rice per bowl of gumbo.
The rice is not a leading ingredient as with African, Asian or even Middle Eastern food.
This rice-heaping habit is NOT the fault of the Gumbo Kitchen crew, of course.
They nod their heads knowingly when I mention it and seem relieved to be serving someone who knows the ins and outs of New Orleans.
They respond to my pessimism by offering a small sample serve of their chicken and sausage gumbo.
No chicken or sausage, just soup and trinity vegetables – celery, onion, capsicum.
All doubts are removed with the first ecstatic mouthful.
This really IS a gumbo.
The flavour is deep and rich with the twinned magic of just-right seasoning and a flour-oil roux.
Stupidly, foolishly, I ignore this most obvious of hints and order something else.
My beef debris po’ boy sandwich ($12) is the real deal, too.
It’s big, so the $12-15 prices range for the sandwiches is more than fair.
The handsome, fresh French bread and the dressing of lettuce, tomato and two crunchy halves of pickled cucumber are right on the money.
The beef, though, is a bit of dud.
Beef debris means to me the bits that fall off a roast beef and continue cooking, becoming crunchy and delicious. Like the crispy bits from a Greek souvlaki rotisserie.
This meat is more like shredded beef. It’s very moist to the point of being sopping wet, and the whole thing falls apart – that’s a roast beef po’ boy for you, so no fault there.
But the meat seems to have little or no flavour, even after a liberal dosing with Crystal sauce.
Some of the deep-fried seafood I see folks around me tucking into looks much more the go.
That’s where I’ll heading next time, hopefully in the west and much closer to home.
Or even better, I’ll go the gumbo.
That’s if I don’t make one myself in the meantime.
It’s been a long time!
While I’ve been eating, the music has mainly been by the Rebirth Brass Band and their former leader, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.
But when I get home, there’s only one New Orleans tune I wanna hear … by the great Smiley Lewis: