First you make a roux

Those words were ingrained in me as I grew up, watching my mom and my grandparents cook gumbo, red beans and rice, other Cajun deliciosities. It was simple: flour and oil of equal portions, on medium-high heat. Stir until golden brown, and it starts to get thick. Never step away from a roux. It’s your core – if you mess up the roux, if you burn it, you have to start over.

As I made a roux for a chicken and andouille gumbo this past Superbowl Sunday, I thought about how creating that classic family recipe could be a metaphor for life. Just an hour before, I had had a great conversation with one of my favorite people I’ve never met about all the complexities of finding your career path and making life-changing decisions. As we talked about the tough questions that many people face, not just at my age, but at his age and even older (mid-life crisis, anyone?), we both realized that it all comes down to a few core elements. He left me with the following things to ponder:

-What is my perfect day? Freely admitting that although he has asked many others that question yet and he doesn’t have his own answer, he pushed me to think about the things that I would include in an ideal day, and I don’t mean getting a manicure or eating a brownie sundae. We both knew that by putting our ideal day down on paper, some of the items might make us think long and hard about what we’re doing now, or what we think we want in life.

-When making a decision – any big decision like a career change, location change, etc., consider all the different factors: is this good for me financially? mentally? physically? Is it good for my family (if you have one)? And when you prioritize those factors, the answer might be come a lot more clear.

So back to the roux. First, it’s the flour and oil, your core components. Who are you? What makes you tick? What things are so you that you can’t be you without them? Or what or who do you love that you can’t live without?

Then you add the holy trinity. Again, more key elements that don’t change: in food, it’s bell pepper, onion and celery. In life, it might be people in your life, your dog, a favorite sport, or an activity that you do on a daily basis. These things are added in once the roux is cooked, once it’s reached a beautiful golden brown shade – and for life, once you’ve figured out who you are, you can add your own holy trinity.

Then – it’s kinda up to you. Because gumbos come in all different forms – seafood, pork, sausage, chicken, okra, you name it, that’s where you can feel free to add in what you want, and then a must – season to taste. These are the things like taking a fun class, traveling to a new destination, volunteering, learning to knit…the list goes on. Some people have life lists, some have bucket lists, some have wish lists. Whether you have a list or not, whether you look ahead from your death bed, or live in the moment, anything after the roux and the holy trinity (with some water!) are extra – lagniappe.

Cook for an hour and serve over rice. Top with filé.

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