I've had a request to explain a little bit about Mardi Gras for some of my friends who may not be familiar with it. So, here goes:
As you know, Catholics celebrate Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday where we may fast and usually give up something as a type of sacrifice. Prior to Lent is the Carnival season, aka Mardi Gras, which lasts from Three Kings Day (Jan. 6) to Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras day) which varies according to the Lenten calendar. It's the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when Lent officially begins. This year, Mardi Gras falls on February 24.
During the Mardi Gras season, krewes have balls and some have parades to revel prior to Lent beginning. A krewe is the generic term for all Carnival organizations, but was first coined by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in 1857 to give their club an Old English flavor. Balls pre-dated parades by about 125 years, and unless you are a member or know someone who is, you aren't getting in, it's not a tourist thing. The ball that we went to a couple of weeks ago was like that, the krewe doesn't parade, but they do have the bal masque, which was very formal. The parades are what really draw the tourists. You can join some clubs easier than others. The krewe that Hubby and I have joined is a fairly new one and we were able to join without having been invited or sponsored by an existing member, even though one of my good friends is in it. I'm joining another krewe for next year that has a waitlist before you can even think about riding in its parade. I will probably have to wait a couple of years before I can ride, but the social aspects of the krewes are year-round.
The krewes throw beads and other throws (eg. stuffed animals, toys, etc) from the floats during the parades. Riders are required by law to be masked for the entirety of the parade. (We're also not supposed to drink alcohol while riding, but that one's not really enforced!) We went a little overboard this year on our throws, but since Hubby and his BFF put me in charge, what can you expect, I like to shop! So, if there's any chance you're going to be on the parade route, let me know where you're going to be, I'll load you down with stuff!
Hands down my favorite part of Mardi Gras is King Cake, which I'm sure you've noticed me mention SEVERAL times. I love the stuff! By definition a king cake is an oval shaped sugared pastry, that contains a small plastic doll hidden inside. It's a lot like a giant cinnamon roll. The person who finds the doll is crowned "king" and buys the next cake or throws the next party. The king cake season begins on Jan 6, King's Day. Nearly 1 million king cakes are consumed in the New Orleans metro area during Carnival season. That doesn't count the number that are shipped out all over the world. The best king cakes in the area by far come from Manny Randazzo's bakery. Any time you go to the bakery during Carnival, there is a line out the door and you happily wait your turn to get the yummy goodness. Anyone that disagrees with me about this topic, don't even try and argue with me or convince me that your choice is better than mine, it's not. Also, there are many that will argue that cream cheese or fruit filled cakes are better than plain, they're not. I'm a traditionalist, and the best kind is the traditional. Randazzo's does ship all over so if you want to try one, order it quick because they stop selling them Mardi Gras day. Here's a video of how they are made, it's not a Randazzo's cake, but it will give you and idea of what's going on. My friend, Marissa, has a cooking show and Ralph's is one of her sponsors, so what can you do? Also, if you want some really great Louisiana recipes, find The Outdoor Kitchen show on Facebook or go to http://www.theoutdoorkitchen.com/. She has some great stuff on there and even a lot of game recipes! Also, if you watch her videos on FB, she mentions me in her Soups, Pt. 3 video! I'm kind of a dork when my name gets mentioned on TV and get really excited!
So, hopefully this has explained a little bit of the fun that happens down here each year. If you haven't experienced a New Orleans Mardi Gras, do it! We have a lot of fun down here and it's not all about boobs and beer despite what's shown on TV.