Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras Mambo

Happy Mardi Gras! The picture above is me at Mardi Gras in 2007. I grew up in Southern LA and every year around this time I miss it so much! No one in Memphis celebrates Mardi Gras, but I always like to do something special. Tonight I'm planning to make a pot of gumbo! Since I've already shared my recipe with you, I'll have to take a picture so we can do another comparison of my improved photog skills.

For those of you who didn't grow up in Louisiana, when you think of Mardi Gras you probably just think of a raucous celebration with thousands of partiers fighting over plastic beads. And while you wouldn't be completely wrong, there is soooo much more to Mardi Gras than a bunch of crazy Cajuns and drunk tourists looking to let loose.

You may be aware that Mardi= Tuesday and Gras= Fat, aka Fat Tuesday. The season begins on January 6th (Epiphany or Twelfth Night) and ends with Ash Wednesday which falls anywhere from February 3rd to March 9th. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII made it a Christian holiday held before the liturgical season of Lent. He put it before Ash Wednesday so that the debauchery would be finished when it came time to fast and pray.

The First Mardi Gras in America was under French Rule when King Louis XIV sent Iberville and Bienville LeMoyne from France to defend their territories in AL, LA, and MS. They sailed up the MS River until they landed at the perfect place to build a colony and deemed it: Point du Mardi Gras.

The most well known Mardi Gras traditions include parades and king cakes. "Krewes" (named for the Greek god of revelry) are formed to organize the chaos of Mardi Gras, and each Krewe has their own parade. The king of the parade is known as the "Rex" and the "Flambeaux” are torch carriers who light the way of the themed floats and costumed riders. While parades are fun, my favorite tradition is the King Cake! Originally baked on Epiphany Eve (today its served all through Epiphany season), the king cake was baked in honor of the magi. A figure of a baby is placed inside to represent the Christ child, and the person who finds it was expected to make a contribution to a worthy cause (now they have to buy the next cake). Traditionally the king cake is similar to a brioche and adorned with colored sugar. Yum!

Mardi Gras is such a fun festive time that is about all kinds people coming together and celebrating under the common interest of enjoying each other and having a great time. Hope you enjoyed learning a little about it. Time to go cook some gumbo..... so here is today's song on the soundtrack of life the Mardi Gras Mambo.


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