Monday, February 28, 2011

Mardi Gras In New Orleans is a VISUAL DELIGHT + Shrimp Creole

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday or the day before Ash Wednesday - is on March 8th this year, but the party in New Orleans has been going on for weeks.

More than thirty tribes of Mardi Gras Indians are festive highlights as they parade through their respective neighborhoods. They combine African dance with stylized and inventive Native American inspired costumes. The multi layered "Indian Suits", decorated with beads, sequins and exotic feathers, can take a year to make and can weigh more than 100 pounds! Although most Mardi Gras Indians are African American, the "Creole" ethnicity has a genetic history formed from French, Spanish, African and Native American Indian ancestors. (photo by Mark Lacy courtesy of H.C.Org.)

Mardi Gras' royal colors are 
purple, green & gold.
(Photo by Alina Oswald)
Carnival Parades, organized by Krewes (the oldest started back in 1857), fill the streets of New Orleans between Twelfth Night, January 6, and Ash Wednesday, March 9, with the pace picking up the two weeks prior to Mardi Gras. Two traditions mark the beginning of the Mardi Gras season: the Masked Ball of the Twelfth Night Revelers and the Ride of the Phunny Phorty Phellows along St. Charles Avenue. However it is the final four-day Mardi Gras weekend when celebrations reach their peak. The two "super-parades," are the Endymion Parade on Saturday and the Bacchus Parade on Sunday. Mardi Gras, literally Fat Tuesday in French, is an official state-wide holiday (although it is only observed in the southern half of the state). The Tuesday parades include many high school marching bands. 
In addition to the Krewe Parades, there are "Walking and Marching Clubs" and "Truck Parades" made up of individuals driving their flatbed trucks decorated and manned by family and friends. Many New Orleanians don flamboyant costumes or bizarre make-up to wander the streets of the French Quarter during the festivities. The city-wide party ends promptly at midnight on Mardi Gras day, when the police start clearing the streets and city workers start cleaning-up the huge mess. For the clubs and Krewes, Mardi Gras celebrations officially end when the Court of Krewe Rex attends the Ball of the Mystick Krewe of Comus and congratulates their Court. Mardi Gras Krewes from Zulu to Rex are private, by invitation only clubs, all have royalty: Kings, Queens, Dukes, Knights and Captains and supposedly all memberships are open to all ethnicities. One thing is certain, no-one is left out of the celebrations because everyone is invited to the "Big Party" in the "Big Easy" during Mardi Gras.

On elaborate floats, costumed Krewes throw beads to the crowd. (Photo courtesy of The Times-Picayune)
I lived in New Orleans, Louisiana for a few years and the Carrolton Mardi Gras Parade route passed with-in a half-a-block of our house in the Garden District. Everyone ends up with so many plastic beads, coins and trinkets that you are very aware of the heavy weight you wear home. I will never forget the TV newscaster saying after Mardi Gras week was over that ONLY five people had been crush to death under the floats that year!?! Whoa. Mardi Gras is crowded and it's basically a drinking festival, many people over indulge, everyone is yelling "Throw me something mister!" so for the few seconds those beads are in the air, they are the most valuable commodity on the planet, meaning people will fight and push to catch as much as they can. With that said, I can see how people literally get thrown under the bus. I went to my first Mardi Gras when I was 18 years old. I don't know if this is still the case, but the crowds in the French Quarter were so dense at that time, you did not decide where to go, the tide of humanity just pushed you down the street. What an eyeful that day was for my young eyes - people are very uninhibited on the balconies of Bourbon Street during the revelry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Since last Saturday, February 19th, the following Mardi Gras Parades have moved through the streets of New Orleans: Krewe du Vieux, Lil Rascals, Oshun, Cleopatra, Excalibur, Eve, Atlas, Choctaw, Adonis, Pontchartrain, Nemesis, Olympia, Sparta, Caesar, Pygmalion, Carrollton Alla, Dionysus and Rhea. 
The Krewes yet to parade are: Thor, King Arthur, Barkus, Ancient Druids, Babylon, Muses, Chaos, Hermes, Krewe d’Etat, Selene, Orpheus, Morpheus, Centurions, NOMTOC, Iris, Tucks, Endymion, Isis, Okeanos, Mid City, Thoth, Bacchus, Napoleon, Proteus, Orpheus, Zeus, Zulu, Rex, Elks Orleans, Crescent, Argus, Jefferson Trucks, Elks Truck, Grela and BES.

Mardi Gras World
builds the floats all year long!

MARDI GRAS WORLD designs and builds the floats for the Krewes of Mardi Gras. It is located at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA. Phone: 504-362-8211. Tours costs $18.50 and is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Of course it is closed on Mardi Gras! 

Speaking of 
Alcohol Consumption:
A report from the World Health Organization was released on February 11 on the world's drinking habits and according to their findings, Americans don't actually drink that much, relatively speaking.  Americans do drink — a lot! — they just don't drink as much as Europeans and Russians do. Or even as much as Nigerians, for that matter. Based on just the alcohol content of their drinks, the report shows Americans imbibed in an average of 7.5-9.99 liters of alcohol per person during a two year period between 2003 and 2005. Nigerians, Argentineans and Australians drank an average of 10-12.49 liters, whereas Russian and many Europeans drank 12.5 liters and up of alcohol.

(source: World Health Organization)

Next Weekend
Have Your Own,
Mardi Gras
Masked Ball
Per mask, 1 - 143 masks. $3.35
Item #: APR183EA
In Stock


Price (USD)
Per piece, 1 - 29 pieces.

Item #: APR190EA
In Stock

Price (USD)
per dozen

Item #: APR033DZ
In Stock

Price (USD)
Per dozen, 1 - 29 dozen.

Item #: JLR090DZ
In Stock

Crown and Robe

Quantity  1- 23 crowns.
Per crown,

Item #: HAT093EA
In Stock
Price: Per robe.                          $23.10 
Item #: APR170EA
In Stock


Shrimp have always been plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico, near South Louisiana, and rice is the crop of choice for water laden fields. The Creole culture embraced shrimp and rice as two of their main food groups. Shrimp Creole is a classic dish to come from this combination. 

- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion – chopped
- 1/2 cup celery – chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can of stewed tomatoes
- 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
dash of Tobasco sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 pound shrimp – small, peeled, deveined
- 1/2 cup bell peppers – red or green
cooked rice, regular or basmati
Heat oil in skillet or dutch oven. Sauté onion, celery and garlic over medium/low heat until tender; approximately 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, sugar, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Simmer on medium/low heat, uncovered for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.
Mix cornstarch with water in small bowl. Stir into tomato mixture.
If serving immediately, add shrimp and pepper and cook for 8-10 minutes, more or less, until shrimp turn an opaque pink.
You may also prepare tomato mixture ahead, freeze, and when ready to eat, thaw, bring to a simmer -  add the shrimp and peppers; cook until done.
Serve over rice cooked according to package directions.
Serving Description: large individual pasta or soup bowl full
Servings: 8
Container: large skillet or dutch oven, sauce pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

During Mardi Gras,
locals party with a
The King Cake is a 

 New Orleans pastry with a small plastic baby hidden inside. The person who gets the slice with the baby has to host the next year's party. Decorate the cake with purple, green and gold icing. Note: Be sure to tell everyone about the baby, before they begin eating it or if this tradition is too worrisome for you use a gummy bear instead!

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  8. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. 
  9. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water & food coloring.
  10. or Order a King Cake via Mail order!

      1. Mail order King Cakes

    The Economy Package is for the no frills approach to enjoying Mardi Gras. None of the fancy throws, just a delicious 2 pound Gourmet King Cake, a plastic Mardi Gras baby, and a Taste of Mardi Gras flyer. The King Cake will serve 15 - 20 people.   

    Price: $17.99 

March 1, 2011 starts Armory Arts Week in NYC. The Thursday issue 3/3/2011 will be dedicated to all that is going on. The public access doesn't really start until Thursday. Here is a link to see what is happening before then:
Until later,


© ARTS&FOOD,( All rights reserved, © Copyright Jack A. Atkinson 2011 Under All International, Digital, Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws. Images © Copyright individual Creators, Lenders or Fabricators.