Gumbo on the Horizon – Spotlight on Mama’s Chicken & Market

Written by
Karen Whitfield and Mayor Villaraigose (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

It’s no secret that I’m a food geek who wants nothing more than a constant stream of information on where to eat, shop, cook.  So today I got a threefer.  In my role as member of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council I was asked to show up for a Mayoral photo op in honor of the upcoming GoodFoodDayLA this Saturday.  It’s a day designed to engage the volunteer spirit in all of us around issues of food justice/health/community/education.  Please note: the key word “food” makes all surrounding words much more palatable.  Commercial here…There are 40 events around town on Saturday.  As soon as I figure out how to post a pdf to this post I’ll update it with the list.  Find one in your neighborhood and get involved.  Now where was I?

So a group of us converged on Karen Whitman’s Mama’s Chicken & Market at 2510 W. Slauson Avenue. Los Angeles, CA 90043.  Karen’s shop is part of the Community Market Conversion Pilot Program.  So far no money has been spent on facade clean up or changes.  Just excellent volunteer merchandising and design experts to show off what was already on the inside.

While cameras waited for Mayor Villaraigosa I roamed the aisles looking for goodies.  I found at least 8 varieties of Camellia beans, the famed and much beloved New Orleans Brand.  There they were:  crowders, black-eyed and field peas , baby green limas, limas, navy beans, pinto and red kidney in the bag with the characteristic red flower.  My food antennae lept to attention.  This was no ordinary convenience store.  My eyes flicked through the shelves and quickly took in  bottled dark roux (that’s the kind of convenience I occasionally like), several kinds of cane syrup, Zaterain’s and off in the distance glowing in their case, homemade cakes, pies and cobbler.  I started sneaking past camera people with my haul, then I took another walk through and found a cafe tucked in the back with a to-order kitchen turning out breakfast of grits, eggs and sausage. Yes, I put in my order, but I have to come back for the Chicken Dinner.  But everyone was pointing me to the chicken hot links. Who am I to say no?  So dinner tonight will be Gumbo Mama with Chicken sausage, roux, Camellia Green Baby Limas, Poblanos (all from Karen), and red onion thinnings, purple sprouting broccoli, carrots (from the farmers mkts.)  It’s my favorite way to put together a meal.  I find a mixture of regional foods combined with my pantry and farmers market veg is all I need for simple dinner.