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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mardi Gras

Despite the Accents
No Bronx Cheer nor Boston
Chowder in Who Dat Nation

Dressed for Excess
By Don Merlot
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
New Orleans
Once I left New Orleans what was normal for me was not normal to mainstream America. I had to learn another Language, menu, and cultural origins. That is not bad, but sometimes you get tired explaining why we have habits are so different to that of the rest of the States and why we talk funny as if we were from Boston or the Bronx.

Now that the Mardi Gras is upon on it makes me think how much fun it is to be a New Orleanian again. This year the Super Bowl-bound Saints and Mardi Gras all hit within the same ten-day period and what a celebration it will be.

Does one really have to dress to the occasion? Remember that the Fun stops on Ash Wednesday. Lent starts that day, and the one thing one gives up is the partying mode. So when you are partying during Carnival dress for fun, eat for fun, and drink for fun.

So in New Orleans the official start of Carnival is Epiphany, the 6th of January, the day that the three kings visited the Christ Child. In the mind of the French Colonist of la Nouvelle Orleans it was to recognize that its citizens are bidding farewell to winter and getting ready for natures renaissance. Europe did and the colonist should have it too. Social and economic levels were key as to who partied where.

It depends on how much history we took and what we remembered, but the main Mardi Gras tradition started in Mobile (now Alabama). As the French settled there between Spanish Florida and northern Spanish Mexico (Texas today); and that Eastern part of Louisiana that looks like the toe of the boot and Western part of the panhandle from Florida were the line that divided French Louisiana northern border to the English colonies that are today the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast; they are called the Florida Parishes in modern parlance that is where Hurricane Katrina hit.

So In French Mobile the first Mardi Gras in the French American colony started. What is so popular during that yearly event from Epiphany and Mardi Gras is a celebration of dancing, drinking and joviality. The epitome of every party is the King Cake that is cut at the apex of the party and a ceramic doll is hidden in the pastry of the cake at baking time and the lucky person that finds that in their piece of cake which one would drink with Champagne at the noble or high society gatherings, would have to give the next party. Outside of Louisiana, this ceremony is not popular. Yes, in Spanish America and Portuguese America there is Carnival, but in Europe it is linked more to the Roman Catholic practices. English know it as Shrove Tuesday, the Germans as Fasching.

Mardi Gras, the French for Fat Tuesday, is the day one has the last drink (alcohol) and certain foods for Lent, and it is the day before Mardi Gras.

So When we celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans we are enjoying a tradition set up by our French forefathers.

Today the King Cake is enjoyed by all revelers and it is not just washed down with Champagne. New Orleans is also famous for inventing the cocktail. Many rum punches are popular at these gatherings. Today a most favorite is the Pat O'Brien Hurricane.

With the Saints winning the Super Bowl, the party will last until Ash Wednesday: February 17. Remember that New Orleans is now the 'Who dat Nation.'

(Don Merlot, otherwise known as Ron Alonzo, writes about food and dribk for The Junto).