Sometimes I wonder how much my palate would have been broadened without the blog. For sure, I sometimes pay more attention now to how food is presented. Not so much with the food styling as with the authenticity of the ingredients themselves. In the beginning, I often substituted one ingredient for another depending on availability and price, which isn't bad necessarily because that's how I often cooked. But with blogging, I try to remain true to the spirit of the dish, regardless of its origins. After all, certain dishes became famous because of the interplay of those very ingredients.
I had made gumbo several times before, but when I originally photographed it for the blog in 2008, celery was a ridiculous $1.99 apiece at the grocery store. So, I substituted with fennel stems I had saved from my Orange and Fennel Salad. It tasted fine, but the trinity of three in New Orleans cuisine -- onions, green bell peppers, and celery exist for a reason.
Of course, variations do exist and recipes often change, especially with regards to soups and stews. What's the difference between Creole and Cajun gumbos? Apparently Creole gumbo is more tomato-based and like a soup, with a roux made from butter and flour like they do in France. While Cajun gumbo with its more rustic origins requires a roux made with lard and flour, with readily available meats such as game, and file powder for thickening so it's more like a stew.
I've made several other pots of gumbo since then, each time a little different depending on what's in my fridge and pantry. But there are some ingredients that I always include: the meats are often a combination of chicken, shrimp, and sausage; the trinity of onions, green bell peppers, and celery; and okra. I love okra and often make gumbo just to give me an excuse to eat it. Sometimes I add tomatoes, but not always. In any case, gumbo is easy enough to adapt to what you have in your kitchen.