Saturday, January 26, 2008

They Don't Call It Mardi Gras for Nothing

So, we're headed toward Mardi Gras--Fat Tuesday. It is preceded by Lundi Gras--Fat Monday. And even though I no longer live in New Orleans, I'm getting ready to head back down with friends for the festivities, from Feb. 1 through Feb. 5. So no blogging those days--there are beads with my name on them headed my way.

So, what's involved in Mardi Gras besides bead catching and parade watching? I didn't get it for a long time, but it's people watching and, being as it IS New Orleans, after all, eating.

Here's the routine. Hours before parade time, you head with your camping or festival chair out to the neutral ground (which the rest of the world knows as a median), where you strive to be closest to the street. You park your butt in your chair alongside your pals, and in a spot convenient to all you place your cooler. If you're a REAL man or woman, you rope in your seating area with police tape, set up your grill, put up your folding table full of side dishes and set your cooler of beer or whatever underneath, and plan to stay in the area until the cows come home or the parades end for the day, whichever comes first.

We're planning a middle range of activities--we're taking out the chairs and snacks, but no grill or police tape.

Which is all a long way of thinking about King Cake, the traditional New Orleans pastry covered with sugar dyed in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold. Sometimes it also has icing and often is filled with cream cheese or some sticky sweet fruit filling. And if there's anything worse for you than sugar, I'd imagine it's sugar coated in purple vegetable dye.

I haven't seen a King Cake since last year. Usually by this time, my office in New Orleans would have shared at least a dozen. If you look back at my NOLA blog about this time last year I was bemoaning the sea of King Cake Carbs floating around the office on a daily basis.

Now I look in my new office area, and I see a carton of yogurt and a bottle of Kraft Light Three Cheese Ranch salad dressing. Sigh. It ain't the same, but no doubt it's healthier.

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