Also known as Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday depending on your heritage and where you live.
I have so many wonderful memories of Mardi Gras and of New Orleans also known as The Big Easy. Having spent my growing up years in New Orleans, I was so lucky to experience all the richness of the cultures there. My earliest fun times that I remember were visiting the French Quarter and the farmers market along with Cafe Du Monde and the beignets and chicory coffee. Ok, I didn’t drink the coffee when I was little but I remember the smell…oh so well! And, as we would drive through the downtown area, I remember the waves of coffee scent that ran through the streets and away from the downtown behind the Schwegmann’s huge grocery store where you could easily spend a few hours shopping for groceries, getting your shoes repaired, drinking at the bar, or shopping for live frog legs(ew!), or eating oysters. That coffee scent was from the Folgers coffee plant near there and it was equally amazing. Two of the most fantastic coffees in one town. Life was good! And, at that time I didn’t even drink it! All the sights and sounds of the market and the French Quarter made me come alive.
Around the middle of January and February, the parades would start and we would go and sit or stand on the side of the road hoping for beads and doubloons to be thrown our way. When the floats would come by with all the music, I could feel the excitement and the energy and it felt like one big party happening.
One thing I remember the most is attending a Mardi Gras Ball. I was 13 years old and one of my best friends asked me if I wanted to go with her and her parents. Oh the thrill, it meant wearing a long gown, heels and makeup. It meant walking down a long flight of steps into a beautiful ballroom to the dance floor and tables set and elegantly decorated for the Ball. I will never forget walking down those steps and feeling like a princess. I don’t remember anything else about the Ball itself but I DO remember the after party held at the home of one of the Krewe. Her home was over 100 years old and in the garden district. Inside were all antiques and glassed in wall cabinets filled with beautiful things. When I walked in the front door, I saw a beautiful settee sitting next to the doorway. It is the first time I had ever seen a sitting bench like this and I knew that someday I wanted one just like it. Today, I have one sitting in my home and it is the first thing you see when you walk through the doors.
This settee was actually made in New Orleans and I found it in Texas through a woman who was getting rid of some of her antiques.
At the after party, I remember spending a lot of time visiting, laughing, and just talking with a lot of adults as my friend and I were the only children there. I remember our host’s beautiful table covered with more food, fancy desserts, and candy than I had ever seen and that says a lot about how full it was considering our family was a family of nine and our table was always full for parties and holidays.
While I went to many parades in New Orleans, I only remember going one time on Mardi Gras, the actual day and watching the parades. I was 14 years old and I went with friends and their parents. They had rented a Uhaul truck and for part of it, we sat on top watching the parades go by. For other parts, we stood in the streets and we were so close to the floats and bands from being pushed to the front by immense crowds, I thought I would be run over by them. The Uhaul was filled with chairs, food, drinks, and blankets that we would need for the day. We arrived at 6 a.m. to stake out our spot and left around 11 p.m. when the parades and festivities ended. But, Mardi Gras doesn’t end there. I remember going then to an after party in someone’s home. I also can pull up a memory of us standing on the porch of that same house and my watch saying 2 a.m. and me thinking about how tired I felt. It was such an amazing day.
I think these things that I look back on are why I celebrate Mardi Gras every year…as they have given me beautiful memories. No matter where we were, we celebrated. It could be at home, with friends, or at the little New Orleans style restaurant called The Big Easy near our home years ago. We could go there any time and experience a little bit of New Orleans. On Mardi Gras Day, a jazz band would be there and play while people ate and talked with each other across tables, while handing out beads and doubloons to each other …all strangers but yet…having that same connection of celebrating a day we all held so dear.
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!
I made these this year as a variation to the traditional King Cake.
Side note: In case you were wondering, the colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith.