New Orleans awoke to an unusually cold, dreary day, lists of cancellations and the sting of a Saints loss that doesn’t quite sit right.

But then again, there’s gumbo.

Forget that business about lemons to lemonade. On a day like today, gumbo is comfort food and coping mechanism rolled into one. It's a taste of home and a big bowl of feel better.

I started thinking about gumbo as soon as the weather forecasts were rolling in. The one that got away in Atlanta last night sealed the deal. Lunch today will be gumbo; lunch today must be gumbo.

That’s settled, but what type? The call for gumbo doesn’t not necessarily have one answer, not for me.

Of course if you have access to home-cooked gumbo today, the search is over. Alas I do not and so the wheels start turning.  

The cold and wet brings to mind chicken and sausage gumbo, something thick, saddle brown and smoky with big chunks of andouille. It’s the gumbo ya ya at Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter and High Hat Café on Freret Street, the gumbo that perseveres always on the menu (including the quick deli lunch menu) at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, and the gumbos that add a little something else, like the tasso, chicken and sausage at Herbsaint (or if we're seeing this through to dinner, the rabbit with sausage at Brigtsen's, the duck and sausage at Upperline). 


Advocate photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee -- A crab claw finishes the seafood gumbo at Avery's on Tulane.

But then seafood gumbo has its own appeal, one from that deep intermingling of shrimp and crab. The version at Avery’s on Tulane recently reminded me why I love seafood gumbo in particular. The house style at Creole-Italian eateries like Mandina's carries the torch through generations.

But maybe the answer is in a different category, Creole gumbo, the most distinctly New Orleans of all gumbo variations. It’s the crucial mix of Creole hot sausage, at least a few other meats and different types of seafood in a roux that is dark, soupy, substantial and slurp-able.

It’s at the old school classics Dooky Chase’s and Li’l Dizzy’s and newer additions like Neyow’s and the Munch Factory. It’s Mia Moore-Henry’s family gumbo at Café Dauphine in the Lower Ninth Ward, it’s the late Billy Gruber’s legacy gumbo at Liuzza’s by the Track, with the seafood added just before service, and it's the recently-returned gumbo at Dunbar’s Creole Cuisine.

It’s gumbo. It’s what New Orleans need on a day like today. Is it lunch time yet?

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.