“Dans Les Roux:” Celebrating Melanges in Food, Music & Ourselves

A portrait from Brooklyn and New Orleans

In May 2022, we celebrated the soulful magic that emerges when bits of culture mix into something new that is greater than the sum of its parts!


Magic in Roux + Rues

The jumping off point for this whole event was an original song by my multi-talented friend Mike Cobb: “Dans Les Roux.” The songs title and lyrics are a play on two French phrases: dans les roux (in the roux, meaning all the things you might put into your roux which is the basis of a gumbo (among other dishes), and dans les rues (in the streets). The song, fittingly played in a New Orleans funky twang, makes it feel as we are indeed dancing the night away dans les rues like Frenchman or Bourbon streets in New Orleans.

And the verses themselves describe the steps of making and enjoying a delicious gumbo, and how to continue the fun after that. The chorus refers to a parallel, human type of gumbo which reminds us that when we come together dancing in the streets, all the fun, energy and magic of that night is necessarily the product of the energies each of us bring and throw in the pot of the experience.

Any gumbo has to start with a roux, but from there, every chef has their own recipe, each one perfectly authentic. Any night may start with a fun band, but the magic can only come when all the participants come with open hearts, ready to jump in the pot together for the fun of the night.

second line for live eclecticana music in brooklyn

… and magic we made! We came together 7-May 2022 for some live eclecticana music by Spike and the Dredgers, all of the food and drink mentioned in Mike’s “Dans les Roux” song, plus some others, some second-line-umbrella making, and second line dancing, and LOTS of fun.

“Thank you so much for the wonderful evening. It fed my soul, my spirit, and my body.”

R. D. (Brooklyn/Paris), attendee

To taste the Mike’s metaphor – the roux he sings about – we decided to make several variations of gumbo as well as some other items mentioned in his song: red beans and rice and Sazeracs! Also per the song, we had to have some ice cold Abitas on hand, and we made our favorite pralines because we couldn’t not. Any excuse to make those deliciously addictive morsels.

Recipes for each can be found in the following sections (jump around via the “The Journey” navigation):


NOLA Funk + Eclecticana

We got the party started with this funky playlist; a nice aural appetizer to get our heads bopping and feet tapping. Go ahead and get that on now. We’ll wait.

Eclecticana is a term Mike came up with to capture his boundary-defying musical tastes and sensibilities. It incorporates country, blues, folk, rock, psychedelic, garage, punk, and even some tejano. A gumbo-of-a-man himself (what with is podcasts, journalism, photography), Mike has been playing around the New York Area, and internationally, with a variety of other bands for 30 years. You can follow him on Soundcloud here, and will update this post when there is a way to follow his individual

On May 7th, Mike brought a fun, new group called “Spike & the Dredgers,” which is just the latest manifestation of long time musical friendships from in and around Brooklyn. it features Matt Statler on acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion; Rip Westmoreland on guitar, vocals and mandolin; Ben Herzog on upright bass and vocals; and Scott Hamilton on drums and vocals. just before the pandemic, they began playing together as the Bootheel Boss Gobblers, another collaboration with this crew. I will be sure to update this post when I have more links to help us follow these fab musicians.

We don’t yet have a recording of the fabulous “Dans les Roux” song, but here are the lyrics and chords so you can take a crack at it if you’d like! We will add a link to the recording when it is released.

by mike cobb

Did you already press play? WHAT? then do it, and laissez les bons temps rouler!!



Fittingly, gumbo not unlike good jazz; any great jazz song has a number of interpretations that have been put forth over the years, and yet each time there will be improvs and solos that will give a slightly different flair, but all with the same great base of the original song.

“Blues is like the roux in a gumbo.

People ask me if jazz always has the blues in it.

I say, if it sounds good it does.”

Wynton Marsalis

The first thing to know about gumbo is that there are as many recipes as chefs. There are three main categories, but they are by no means completely separate and distinct. Much ink has been spilled in documenting the various kinds as they evolved and influenced each other, both on large scale, and within families themselves.

dark roux plus holy trinity of vegetables for a gumbo, and gradys new orleans cold brew sustaining the cooking

First and foremost, a roux is a basic foundation for any gumbo. A roux made by cooking flour into fat (traditionally butter or vegetable oil, and typically in a 1:1 ratio). It is a painstaking process, as you need to constantly stir it for a minimum of about 20 minutes. It can not be rushed. It is the foundation in terms of thickener and flavor.

The roux becomes progressively darker brown the more it cooks. Each chef has their desired shade (coffee with milk, peanut butter, pralines…). The darker it is, the more nutty and complex the flavor, and the deeper the color of the final product.

Then you add the aromatics – the holy trinity as it is known in New Orleans – to the roux. The holy trinity is made up of diced onions, celery and bell pepper, typically in a 2:1:1 ratio.

But then, once the foundation is set, each chef has their own recipe, and they will likely also improvise based on what they have available, and how many people they might be having to dinner. Gumbos are often divided into the cajun or creole camps, but depending on who you ask, the lines drawn around those distinctions change.

Lastly, there are the thickening agents okra vs filé for thickeners. Okra was brought over by enslaved people, and became a staple of the area. Filé is a powder made from the dried and ground leaves of the North American sassafras tree, which was introduced by the Chocktaw Native American people.

Before researching for this event, I thought that the terms cajun and creole were somewhat interchangeable when referring to cuisine and culture around New Orleans, but I was wrong! While over time they they have grown closer together, they have shared, but distinct roots. In Howard Mitcham’s “Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz” book published in 1992, he goes into great detail to describe the origin and importance of each categorization. Extremely briefly, Creole stems from the Spanish word Criollo, and refers to all the mixing of genes and traditions and cuisines beginning in the early 1600s. Cajun, on the other hand, refers to the group of Acadians who arrived in New Orleans beginning in 1765, displaced from Canada by the British in the mid 1700s when they took over. These people settled in rural areas around New Orleans, intent on continuing the simple lives sustained by farming, trapping and fishing.

“Since its roots are french, Cajun cookery is similar to Creole cookery in many ways, but with more spices, more herbs more hot peppers, and more gusto. As i’ve already said, the best way to distinguish them is to describe Creole as sophisticated city cooking, and Cajun as country cooking – less inhibited and more daring, slapdash and inventive”

Howard Mitcham in Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz

It is also important to note that the word gumbo itself traces it’s etymology both from Africa (okra was known as “ki ngombo or quingombo” by many of the enslaved people stolen from West Africa) and the Chocktaw Native people, whose word for file powder was kombos. [On a related note, you could also click over to the Malian dish called Gombos which we have captured in a portrait of Salif Keita here!]

In New Orleans, Gumbo Z’herbs was traditionally a meatless gumbo option for Catholics practicing abstaining from meat on Fridays or during Lent. But these days, you’ll often see Gumbo Z’herbs with various meats, which gumbo matriarch Leah Chase says was because they would eat it on Holy Thursday, and they needed to fill their bellies before fasting on Good Friday.

I haven’t read confirmation of this anywhere, but it also stands to reason that gumbo z’herbs has roots in the ancient dish of melokheya, known by slightly different names across North and West Africa and the middle east. We first made it in 2020 when my daughter was studying Egypt (and I went with the spelling in the novel noted in that post. Basically, it is a stew of greens, with optional meat, just like gumbo z’herbes.

homemade ancient egyptian dishmelokheya with rice and toasted bread and claudia rodin cookbook in the back
melokheya with rice and toasted bread


Gumbo du Monde

gumbo du monde


Vegan Gumbo Z’herbes

vegan gumbo z'herbes pour le
vegan gumbo z’herbes

As noted above, Gumbo Z’herbs was traditionally a meatless gumbo option for Catholics practicing abstaining from meat on Fridays or during Lent, but these days, you’ll often see Gumbo Z’herbs with various meats. Best to watch Leah Chase of Dooky Chase in New Orleans to describe the importance and traditions surrounding this dish, in this video:

We wanted to use her recipe, but we needed a vegan option for our event, so we opted for a fully vegetarian version, and we substituted oil for the butter in the roux.


Chicken & Sausage Gumbo


Satchmo’s Red Beans

Louis + Lucille Armstrong’s recipe for his favorite meal: red beans and rice. I’ve made this several times thanks to finding it on WWOZ’s site for one of our many #festinginplaces, but only recently came across this gem of a video where Lucille is making it on the Mike Douglass television show.

In a blast from the past, it ends with Mike saying you could get the recipe by sending him a self-addressed, stamped envelope asking for it. Remember those days? Thanks to us and the interwebs, we have you covered, no stamps or envelopes required.

red beans and rice for jazz festing in place homemade


Batch Sazerac

sazerac, pralines, beads and second line umbrella



Truly a family favorite. We will insert it right here even thought it is referenced in several other portraits on the site. They are just too good.

big plate of pralines ready for jazz festing in place


Second Line Umbrellas

We brought back a classic, super-fun activity for the evening: making our own second line umbrellas! We first made them as part of our tribute (and Brooklyn second line) for the late, great Dr. John when he transitioned.

second line umbrella craft diy all the necessary bits

For the uninitiated, second lines are the infamous celebratory parade for festivals and celebrating life at funerals. They are, by definition, held “Dans les Rues, (in the streets), so we of course had to wrap that into the evening! Here we show you how to make your own umbrella, but really all you need is a napkin and to let your body move with the beat/energy.

The main requirement is some sort of umbrella or parasol, then you just need to decorate with whatever you have laying around:, markers, stickers, beads, scraps of string, broken necklaces, pieces of paper, tissue paper or magazines… anything works.

Red Beans and Ricely Yours,
Cultures Capsules