A seasoned journalist, Wells sleuths out the answers. His obsession goes back to his childhood in the Cajun bastion of Bayou Black, where his French-speaking mother’s gumbo often began with a chicken chased down in the yard. Back then, gumbo was a humble soup little known beyond the boundaries of Louisiana. So when a young Ken, homesick at college in Missouri, realized there wasn’t a restaurant that could satisfy his gumbo cravings, he called his momma for the recipe. That phone-taught gumbo was a disaster. The second, cooked at his mother’s side, fueled a lifelong quest to explore gumbo’s roots and mysteries.
In Gumbo Life Wells does just that. He spends time with octogenarian chefs who turn the lowly coot into gourmet gumbo; joins a team at a highly competitive gumbo contest; visits a factory that churns out gumbo by the ton; observes the gumbo-making rituals of an iconic New Orleans restaurant where high-end Creole cooking and Cajun cuisine first merged, setting off a culinary explosion. He also explains how gumbo got to China and how it became beloved of a pope, presidents and even Sumo wrestlers.
Wells then takes readers on a tour of his bayou childhood--lived with one foot in the rhythms of a previous century--to show the serendipitous role gumbo played in his family's destiny. It's a deeply personal narrative of a big, extended family whose bonds, sometimes strained by the eccentricities of country life, are smoothed and sealed at the gumbo table.
For cooks of all levels, there's a bonus: an addendum of ten recipes, some culled from historically significant cookbooks that stretch back centuries, some from top chefs and iconic Gumbo Belt restaurants, that capture the creativity with which gumbo is cooked today and are bound to please the palate.
Rendered in Wells’ affable prose, Gumbo Life makes clear that gumbo is more than a dish: it’s an attitude, a way of seeing the world. It's the story of jazz but writ in food. This is a tasty culinary memoir—to be enjoyed and shared like a simmering pot of gumbo.
Now available for pre-ordering online or from your local independent bookstore. Some of my favorites: Alexander Books, Bent Pages, Blytheville Book Co., Faulkner House Books, Garden District Book Shop, Lemuria, Octavia Books, Reed's Gum Tree Books, Turnrow Book Co., Square Books.