With Mardi Gras coming up soon I thought I might share some of the history and tradition behind this grand party. Food (and plenty of it) is a big part of the Cajun life style. If there is a reason to celebrate something, then there is a reason to have lots of food. There is a story that one of the Louisiana politicians was visiting in another state and was taken to see their zoo. This Louisiana politician shared with the others that the name plaques outside of the cages in Louisiana didn't just contain the name of the animal, but also the recipes.
Crawlfish or Mud bugs is as much of a treat to anyone from Louisiana as Lobster is to a Yankee. Being a fan of both, I think the only difference between the two is size. There is a restaurant in the Rayne area of Southwest Louisiana called Hawks. You drive forever through the back roads of the country past miles of rice fields and Crawlfish ponds to get to it. This is unlike any other restaurant that you might have dined at because they close their doors when Crawfish season is over. They have the best there is to offer though and what time they are open, they are packed. Crawfish can't get any fresher than being raised right out the back door of the restaurant.
The Feast of the Epiphany (the coming of the wise men baring gifts) is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. It is traditionally a time of celebration and feasting. The "King Cake" is named in honor of the three kings.
A tiny baby is found inside of every cake. There was a time when the baby would be made of porcelain or gold, but these days they are usually plastic. The King Cake Parties are very common throughout Louisiana. The tradition is, that the person receiving the slice of cake that contains the baby is asked to continue with another party and furnish the next King Cake.
As with everything, the King Cake has evolved from it's original beginnings as a simple ring of dough and a little decoration. The King Cakes of today can be very decorative and festive. After the dough is braided and baked, the baby is inserted and the cake topped with enough sugary icing in the Mardi Gras colors of Gold, Purple and Green to be the undoing of any diabetic.
The Mardi Gras Season begins on January 6, which is the Twelfth Night following Christmas. Mardi Gras Day is always 41 days prior to Easter Sunday.
Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday. Another connection with food. Ash Wednesday is the day during the Easter Season that traditionally kicks off Lent, the period of sacrifice and fasting. With that bit of knowledge, it isn't difficult to figure out what "Fat Tuesday" is all about. It is all about eating all of those goodies that you will be giving up for Lent.
Wishing you many blessings for the week ahead.