On Tuesdays at Post & Beam, Govind Armstrong's swank restaurant next to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, not only will you find a menu of Southern-influenced cooking, but also, for the last six weeks or so, bowls of extraordinary gumbo.
This is not because Armstrong cooks a mean gumbo, although he does — but because 90-year-old Edith Bell does.
Bell had been a regular at Post & Beam — along with her sisters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters — since it opened, and it seemed that every time she came in, Armstrong says, she'd talk about her gumbo. The Louisiana native would tell stories about her decades of cooking for her family and for other people. She once cooked for Muhammad Ali.
Armstrong kept asking her when they were going to cook together. "Finally one day, she came in and brought all the ingredients to make gumbo," Armstrong said. "That was the beginning. It was a project."
A project that became public, as Armstrong put Bell's gumbo on the restaurant's Tuesday night menu. "Her method is similar to mine — I've made gumbo a lot — but it's really not about the ingredients. It's the way she makes the stock, peels the shrimp."
That said, Bell was quite particular about the sourcing, making sure that Armstrong got his bread from Normandie Bakery and his sausage from Bell's little butcher shop.
"She dancing while she's cooking," Armstrong recounted, "while I'm asking her, '[am I ] burning this roux?' "
Armstrong says that May 19 will be the last Tuesday for gumbo, as the season for blue crab (an important ingredient) is finishing. But no worries, he's getting Bell's jambalaya recipe, which will probably be going on the menu next. "It's going to be a weekly thing."