The famous Gumbos of New Orleans are peculiar to that city alone and are unique. As used by the Creoles, the word gumbo is the generic name of a special kind of soup and, although the original Gumbo contained the vetegable known by that name, as well as by the name of okra (hibiscus esulentus) the word became gradually misapplied; and whether or not the soup contained gumbo or okra, the name Gumbo still clung to it. Among the most famous Gumbos are the Gumbo filé and the Gumbo févi, okra being called févi by the Creoles.
File consists of the young and tender leaves of sassafras made into a fine powder. It was first prepared by the Choc taw Indians who lived in the woods around New Orleans. The leaves were gathered by the squaws and spread on a stone to dry and, when thoroughly dry, they were pounded and rubbed through a sieve. Twice a week the Indians would come to the famous French market in New Orleans to sell their filé. It has quite a distinctive flavour, but must be used with discretion as it thickens the soup and makes it “tacky,” hence, probably, the name filé, which is purely local.