Dauphin Island Crab Gumbo

Dauphin Island Crab GumboSome places hold on to your memories and you tell tale after tale about them. Dauphin Island is one of those places for my mother. When we were young, she spoke of summers there. I pictured my summer vacations at Virginia Beach–but somehow Mama’s vacations were better. In my head, she stayed right on the beach and ran wild in the summer heat and swam all day. As I got older, the stories changed a bit and she would have a dreamy look in her eye as she spoke of dates with my father where they went to Dauphin Island.

I wish I could recall those stories better. I should pay attention when she shares them with my children. They sound different though. Is it her age and memory loss or is it my perspective as an adult that makes them sound different? I don’t know.

I do know that whenever Dauphin Island is hit by a hurricane, a flood or is otherwise in the news, Mama fusses. Some part of the landscape of her youth is wiped away with disaster, since she hasn’t been there in probably forty years or more. It stays frozen in her mind like the times she spent there.

This recipe makes fine use of the culture and the seafood of Dauphin Island. My mother and great-grandmother have several versions of it in their collection of recipe cards. I suspect this one was clipped from the Mobile paper.

Dauphin Island Crab Gumbo

2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
Minced parsley
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
3/4 cup sifted flour
2 cups raw crab meat
2 cups canned tomatoes (or fresh peeled tomatoes)
1 cup cut okra
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Paprika (optional)
hot sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon gumbo file (find it in the spice section of your store or at your local spice house or favorite mail order)

Saute celery, onions, peppers and parsley in drippings in covered skillet until soft. Remove from pan. Brown flour in drippings, (I hate that part!I have no patience but it really is worth it and the only way to make gumbo) add to vegetables. Add three quarts water and crab, then cook for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, okra and seasonings; simmer for one hour. Remove from heat; stir in file.

Serve over rice.

Note: If cooked crab meat is used, add 10 minutes before removing from heat. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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