Fry okra in 2 tablespoons shortening until it ceases to "rope", about 30-35 minutes. In another saucepan, make roux with remaining shortening and flour. Add onions, and celery; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add okra. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, thyme and water. Simmer for 30 minutes longer. Remove from heat. If desired stir in 1 teaspoon file just before serving. (Never cook file.) Gumbo is better if cooked early in the morning and refrigerated for several hours. Reheat and serve with cooked rice.
*If crabs are used: Scald live hard-shell crabs and clean, removing the spongy substance and the "sand bag" on the underpart. Break off and crack claws and cut the body in half.
Gumbos, Soups, Chowders
Cajun Country -- New Iberia, Louisiana