TFB Extras

Louisiana natives know the best way to make gumbo is to invite others to add a little something to the pot. Many people touched this story while it was simmering, and while I cannot list everyone here, to each of you I say, Merci beaucoup!

In particular, I thank Nathan Deroche and Pat Hymel of Blind River Chapel. Thank you for welcoming us into your home and for sharing your family’s footprint. Here’s to Martha & Bobby Deroche and all who helped them develop such a sacred space. Specifically: Jimmy Duhe, who pulled cypress logs from the swamps; Charlie Duhe and Moise Oubre, who carved those logs into more than three thousand shingles; Val Amato, who found and transported the statue of Mother Mary to the cypress grotto; and Tommy Zeringue, who led construction of this sanctuary.

Thanks to Pam Brignac, who placed the wooden cross at Bayou Respond Pas in memory of Carey Brignac. This cross is the image I want readers to remember—hope in the suffering, grace in the grief, strength in the storm. My gratitude extends to river friends who welcomed us on board their boats and inside their camps: Barbara & Steven Gallo, Earl Hoseth, Michael Dale Howze, Damon Miley, Dennis Rohner, and Rhonda Littleton Sibley. What wonderfully wild souls you have. Thank you for keeping it real.

Thanks to Lieutenant Chad Gremillion with the Louisiana State Police. This man enters the lions’ den every day to rescue victims of life’s most horrific evils. Thank heaven for souls like this. And speaking of good souls, while this book is not based on real-life events, Sheriff Jay Ardoin’s character was inspired by LP’s own “Kid Sheriff,” whose badge does indeed hold the numbers 13:4 (from Romans). Sorry to break some hearts, but he is happily married to an equally fabulous partner, my friend Erica—so please don’t “go gettin’ Jay mixed up with Jason,” as Raelynn would say. Thanks, Erica & Jason, for being such good sports. And to the entire Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department—you have my deepest gratitude and utmost respect.



Adele Ryan McDowell, PhD, Making Peace with Suicide: A Book of Hope, Understanding, and Comfort. White Flowers Press: Connecticut, 2015.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland. Viking: New York, 2015.

Annie Lobert, Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry & Into the Arms of the Savior. Worthy: Tennessee, 2015.

Anny Donewald with Carrie Gerlach Cecil, Dancing for the Devil: One Woman’s Dramatic and Divine Rescue From the Sex Industry, A Memoir. Howard: New York, 2014.

Beverly Engel, The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

Beverly Cobain and Jean Larch, Dying to be Free: A Healing Guide for Families After a Suicide. Hazelden: Minnesota, 2006.


Jambalaya is a Louisiana creole dish with both Spanish and French influences. It consists of meat, vegetables, and rice—forming a complete, filling one-pot meal. Some say the Atakapa Tribe had a phrase: "Sham, pal ha! Ya!" which means "Be full, not skinny! Eat Up!" Supposedly, the Spanish carried a tweaked version of this phrase into Louisiana and voila! Jambalaya was named! Of course, there are as many legends about the etymology as there are recipes for the dish, but all you really need to know is “Be full, not skinny. Eat up!” (And yes, that is now my personal mantra. Can I get an Amen?)

In our family, we kind of ‘wing it’ when it comes to making Jambalaya and Gumbo. But, it all begins with Emeril Lagasse’s foundational recipe. Emeril is known world-wide for his culinary talents, and for his famous “Bam!” when he adds a dash of spice to the pot. You can find incredible recipes on his website and you can dine at one of many his restaurants, but you may want to start by reserving a seat at the legendary New Orleans restaurant, Commander’s Palace, where he was executive chef for more than seven years.



When we expect a crowd at our house, we either make jambalaya or gumbo. Gumbo is a dish commonly served in Louisiana kitchens, where we dish it up straight from the stove, saying “Help yourselves!”

With gumbo, it’s easy to add more water or broth to make it “stretch” for a crowd, and leftovers can be reheated and served the following day(s).

The history of gumbo is as colorful as Louisiana itself, and stories vary. The bottom line is that many different cultures have combined to create my childhood state, and those cultures have influenced the food we serve.

The word “gumbo” may have come from the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (kombo). While okra is often found in gumbo, our family prefers our gumbo sans okra (that means without). As for filé (or ground sassafras leaves), we keep a fresh stash on the table and folks can add as desired. (If you don’t have your own sassafras tree, you can find filé powder in the spice section of many grocery stores.)

That’s the magic of gumbo. There’s no right or wrong way to prepare this hearty stew. Just toss everything into a pot, add spice, and serve over warm Louisiana rice. Delish!