Celebrating Mardi Gras at Home
In Christian communities around the world, the 40 days preceeding Easter comprise Lent, a period of fasting and penitence. It begins with Ash Wednesday, the day many go to church to receive the sign of the cross. For much of the country, the Tuesday before Lent is not particularly special, but in New Orleans that day is Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday" representing the last gasp of decadence before a period of austerity. Ifyour schedule doesn't permit you to make to to New Orleans this year, you don't need to miss out on the festivities. Simply bring the party to you.
No Mardi Gras would be complete without elaborately decorative masks, be they featured or ceramic. But rather than simply giving them out when your guests arrive, why not include them in the invitation? As them to come in costume donning their masks. It's a sure way to get their attention and their presence.
Setting the Scene
Strike up the Dixieland jazz band, have plenty of adult beverages on hand, and adorn the room wtih colorful strings of bead - the form of currency in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Thrown from floats during the parades, these otherwise worthless strings of plastic beeds can be exchanged for a variety of products and services. The object is to go home with a neck full of beads by the end of the evening. Get creative and come up with your own exchange system at home.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry
If you've ever been to New Orleans you know that they love to eat and appreciate good food. So rather than serving the usual party fare, why not go native. Begin with some boiled crawfish or crab claws followed by shrimp etouffee, gumbo or alligator pie. Whatever you do, be sure to serve king cake, an oval shaped baked good similar to brioche (a sweetened yeast bread). While all king cakes are decorated with purple, green and gold icing, those from New Orleans have begun to fill them with an assortment of flavors such as lemon, apple, and pecan cream cheese.
Each king cake comes with a plastic baby. At the party, the cake is sliced and served. Each person checks his or her piece to see if it contains the baby. The person who gets the baby becomes king for a day and is bound by custom to host the next party and provide the king cake. King cakes are available through a number of different sources through the web or even at your local bakery.
For a very special ay to finish a meal, try making Bananas Foster tableside. This dessert originated in New Orleans and is a simple, yet elegant way to satisfy your sweet tooth. For the recipe, go to our Seasonal Recipes page.
And as they say in New Orleans - "Laissez les bon temps rouler!" (Translation: Let the good times roll!)