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Theodore G. Bilbo’s Gumbo Recipe (1941)

Theodore G. Bilbo was a popular Mississippi politician serving as governor and United States senator during his 30+ year career. He was particularly known for his support of the New Deal, segregationist beliefs, filibuster abilities, and disruption of the university system in Mississippi. In addition, Bilbo also thought of himself as a foodie.

In 1941, Bilbo corresponded with numerous people regarding his gumbo recipe. Colonel M. S. Meriwether, the editor of the Mississippi Sun, requested a copy of the recipe. In Bilbo’s reply, he writes

“If you have any trouble in following this recipe I will be glad to make a trip to Charleston and show you how it is done – and, if you will pardon my English, when it comes to being a chef, I ‘ain’t no slouch.’”

In April 1941, Bilbo received a letter from the National Restaurant Association in response to his comments about why gumbo is unavailable in restaurants, the Association writes

“Perhaps the reason why restaurants haven’t learned how to cook this dish is because the recipe isn’t generally available. At least, we haven’t been able to find it in any one of a number of good cook books…I wonder if you would be kind enough to give use the recipe, if you have it, or perhaps to tell us the ingredients contained therein.”

The Theodore Bilbo Collection contains over 2500 boxes of materials relating to his political career and personal life. A link to the collection finding aid may be found at http://www.lib.usm.edu/legacy/archives/m002.htm

If you have questions about the collection, please contact Cindy Lawler at Cindy.Lawler@usm.edu or 601.266.4348.

Text by Jennifer Brannock, Curator of Rare Books and Mississippiana