So here we are, crashing up against the elusive date of Mardi Gras again this year as usual! Today I got the idea of rounding up some spare Mardi Gras beads and dressing Hanna up for a photo in party regalia, but we couldn't find any of the ones we no doubt have around here in the house somewhere, so whether or not she realized it, she was spared from sporting any tacky bling tonight, with only this frame I added!
Back in the day, we used to make an occasion of Mardi Gras with the traditional meals and of course a King Cake, but over the years due to busy and conflicting schedules even this has fallen a bit by the wayside, though we always do like to acknowledge the beginning of Lent signaled by the grande fête, even if neither of us are practicing Catholics. For us, it's mainly been an excuse to have a few extra drinks to get us through the rest of the winter and on course for spring. Perhaps selfish motives, yes, but hey -- if thousands of people can stop for a day to party in New Orleans (and certainly much wilder than we are capable of!), so can we!
For those more deeply steeped in classic New Orleans culture, there are a lot of traditions celebrated on this day other than a King Cake and bean based meals ... one of its greatest musicians: Dr. John. If you're not familiar with Dr. John, he's been around for decades weaving his own special brand of blues and is still going strong well into his 70's now. In fact, his most recently released disc was in June, 2008 ... City that Care Forgot, which as you might guess has a Hurricane Katrina theme. It's fine work, as always, from Dr. John, so if you're of a mind to spend a little time listening to some of his new album (courtesy of NPR), you could find many less satisfying ways of spending 50 minutes than listening to Dr. John! Just click on the photo below, go to the NPR page and click on "Hear the complete show" and you'll be good to go! You'll be glad you did, even if you don't stick around here the whole time! (Just open it in a new window.)
Finally, one of the traditional mainstays of a proper Mardi Gras celebration is to have a King Cake on hand, and much like the Epiphany, 12th Night and Kings's Day celebrations held in Europe, where the person who finds the fève (traditionally a dried bean, but now usually a plastic baby representing Jesus) is crowned for a day and gets to wear a crown. Given what goes on in New Orleans these days, it has obviously morphed considerably from its historical origins, but King Cakes are tasty! They're a simple leavened bread with cinnamon flavoring with a lemon based green-purple-gold colored sugar heavy frosting ... not something you want to indulge in every day, but when Lent is knocking at the door, I'm sure it's a great farewell treat to the sober season leading up to Easter.
I did a little looking around tonight and found an easy and workable recipe (even if it's geared to toward bread makers which I loathe ... a KitchenAid will do just fine!) that you can try if you're so inclined. If you're familiar with basic bread making technique, this recipe will be a snap, even if you don't make it in time for the "big day." It is a bread that gets stale pretty fast, so if you make it, make sure to indulge in plenty of leavened delight and use it for toast the next day if it's starting to get a bit stale. Tasty stuff! Maybe if I have time this weekend, I may make one even though I'll be late!
Personal note: in case you hadn't guessed, lately I've been smashing into yet more deadlines for work projects so that has affected my abilities to post here ... still, while we're waiting for the first signs of Spring to arrive here and work continues to be busy, I'll just have to offer my apologies in advance this time! But as soon as the bulbs get blooming and other signs of life start emerging, I'll be back to posting again more regularly. Every year I hate those winter doldrums! Maybe we can turn the corner with Mardi Gras this year! Here's to hoping....