Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

Some NOLA street in July 1997. Not at all comparative to what it looks like during Mardi Gras, but the spirit is there.

Mardi Gras is here, so make like New Orleans, and let the good times roll!  According to the first thing I looked at, “laissez les bons temps rouler” is a Cajun phrase that translates to just that.

To most citizens of the United States though, I believe Mardi Gras, compared with other days of the year,  is just a day that it is easier to procure cheap plastic beads.  The day to many Christians is Shrove Tuesday, and it is the end of the Season of Epiphany.  To others, it is simply Fat Tuesday, and due to a combination of all of the history that makes it up, it is basically is a day to unload the pantry and have a party.  It is the day to cut loose before the season of Lent, during which, you have to pay for all the cutting loose you do at all other times of the year.

Regardless of the reason, if you are like me, you enjoy a day that gives you cause to do things differently and mark a day of the year as unique…especially if it can involve food.  Everyone has their heavy hitters: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are easy.  Halloween and Valentines Day have their thing going.  How about a bit o’ corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?  Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, and Labor Day have the grill tied up.   If you try hard enough, you can have a celebratory menu for just about every day of the year: Caesar salad on March 15th anyone?  Tacos May 5th?  Bonus points to anyone dedicating pints of stout and shots of Jameson to June 16th.  Even birthdays are a cause to eat differently.   Mardi Gras should be in there too but i don’t know many who acknowledge it.   In its most basic form, Fat Tuesday is the last chance to cook up the things that some forgo as self sacrifice during Lent.  Personally, my church has an all day pancake, egg and sausage breakfast to commemorate the day and prepare for the somber Lenten season.

For me though, the day always turns to the penultimate American source of Mardi Gras: New Orleans.  And if you are, again , like me, this day gives you an opportunity to mix it up for your ears as well as your palette and play music that is fitting to the season.   So, oddly enough both Professor Longhair and Blind Melon are appropriate, but really, there is a lot of jazz out there to be enjoyed .  The food is where it is really at though.

In my teens, I had a great opportunity to visit New Orleans.  This was my first real experience in a  city outside of Pennsylvania and although I was mostly oblivious to everything around me, I started to grasp the gastronomic potential of other cultures outside of my own.  While there, we went to Emeril  Lagasse’s, toned down and more accessible NOLA.  I had some sort of gumbo and it was one of those shaping moments in your life where you can say, “That is where it all started.”  As evidence of my future tendencies, I even took a crappy Kodak Advanced picture:

Gumbo at NOLA in 1997.

I can honestly remember the taste just from looking at that…mmmm…..

 

Enough with my nostalgic blathering.  Empty out the pantry!  Cook some bacon!  Use the internet, find something new!  I think the King Cake would be a great tradition to start.  Take one to the office, whoever gets the baby Jesus brings in the cake next year.  As for me though, this year I see a po’ boy in my future.   I got to get cooking…

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