Tag Archive: Carnival

Mar 05 2019

Mardi Gras

Republished from Feb 21, 2012 Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, …

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Feb 15 2015

Celebrating Mardi Gras

“Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!”

 photo m1_zps28b27601.gif Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.

A Little History

Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.

The Carnival season, or Mardi Gras, kicked on in the city of New Orleans on January 6th, Twelfth Night, with the traditional Twelfth Night Revelers’ Ball, hosted by the krew of the same name, where the queen of Mardi Gras is chosen, a tradition that began in 1870.

Up until this time in Carnival and Mardi Gras history, there had never been a queen of the celebration. In fact, prior to this time, all parades, balls and tableaux were planned and staged by men. Women did not participate in any fashion until after the tableaux when ladies were summoned from the audience to take part in the dancing.

And now the great surprise of the evening was about to be unveiled. The first queen in the history of the New Orleans Carnival was about to be chosen, crowned and put upon a pedestal to be admired. The huge king cake was brought out for all to witness the proceedings. When the cake was prepared, a golden bean had been placed inside. The court fools were to slice generous servings of the cake and pass them to the ladies, who waited patiently.  [..]

Selection of a queen at the Twelfth Night Revelers Ball through the use of the king cake is still practiced today. In place of a real cake, a huge artificial cake with little drawers is used. One drawer holds a golden bean and the balance, silver beans. The lady selecting the drawer with the golden bean is crowned queen and those choosing drawers containing silver beans are the maids.

The partying, alas, will end at midnight on Shrove Tuesday. So, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Feb 15 2015

What’s Cooking: Mardi Gras a Carnivale of Food

Republished from February 19, 2012

Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Shove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, what ever you call the day before the Christian Lent, it’s all about food, fatty food. Eat, drink and be merry for at midnight you must fast and give up your favorite vice, except on Sunday, for the next forty days, that is if you’re a Christian. We Pagans just raise an eye brow and enjoy the party and the FOOD!

Traditional foods are all rich, fatty and sweet. Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, catfish, po’ boys to pancakes and beignets are all calorie laden delights that will need 40 days of fasting and exercise to shed the pounds. So to start the party off, here are a few recipes for a hearty gumbo, desert, something to drink and, of course, King Cake. Tradition is the person who discovers the tiny plastic or porcelain baby in his or her slice is branded as the provider of the next cake. In pre-Christian societies whoever found a coin or bean in a special cake was crowned King for the year; afterwards, he was sacrificed to ensure a good harvest – which makes having to pony up for the next cake seem like a mighty good deal.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This recipe serves 10 but can be cut in half

Ingredients:

   12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced

   1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles

   1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes

   1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

   1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)

   2 large celery stalks, chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 11/2-inch pieces

   2 tablespoons paprika

   1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

   3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles

   2 1/2 cups beef broth

   3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice

   8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

   Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preparation:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Buttermilk Beignets

This will make 48 beignets

Ingredients:

   3/4 cup whole milk

   1 1/2 cups buttermilk

   4 teaspoons active dry yeast

   2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

   3 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for flouring work surface

   1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   Peanut oil for frying

   Confectioners’ sugar for serving, as much as you think you’ll need-then double that!

Preparation:

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until small bubbles form at the surface. Remove from the heat, add the buttermilk, and then pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until the dry ingredients are moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough forms a loose ball and is still quite wet and tacky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough aside in a draft-free spot for 1 hour.

Pour enough peanut oil into a large pot to fill it to a depth of 3 inches and bring to a temperature of 375°F over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes). Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out on it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, gently press to flatten, fold it in half, and gently tuck the ends under to create a rough-shaped round. Dust again and roll the dough out into a ½-inch- to ¹/³ inchthick circle. Let the dough rest for 1 minute before using a chef’s knife, a bench knife, or a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares (you should get about 48).

Gently stretch a beignet lengthwise and carefully drop it into the oil. Add a few beignets (don’t overcrowd them, otherwise the oil will cool down and the beignets will soak up oil and be greasy) and fry until puffed and golden brown, turning them often with a slotted spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared plate to drain while you cook the rest. Serve while still warm, buried under a mound of confectioners’ sugar, with hot coffee on the side.

Make ahead:

The beignet dough can be made up to 8 hours in advance of frying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. After cutting the dough, place the beignets on the paper and place another greased sheet of parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top. Wrap the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The beignets can be fried straight from the refrigerator.

King Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

   1/3 cup milk

   1 package active dry yeast

   2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

   2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs

   3 tablespoons granulated sugar

   Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

   1 teaspoon salt

   1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

   1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl

For the Filling and Glaze:

   1/2 cup golden raisins

   1/4 cup bourbon

   3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

   2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

   2 teaspoons grated orange zest

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)

   1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

   Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions:

Make the cake: Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.

Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Make the filling:

Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the glaze:

Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners’ sugar; brush 3 tablespoons glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with bands of colored sugar; drizzle with more glaze.

Hurricane

In the years since Katrina, the only welcome storms in New Orleans are the ones in a glass. Watch out for this fruity, gale-force rum concoction-more than one, and you’ll need to declare yourself a natural disaster.

Because the syrup is hard to come by (and artificially flavored) here is a substitute for it that was well received: a tablespoon of passion fruit sorbet (Häagen Dazs makes one) and a teaspoon of grenadine, per serving.

Ingredients:

   1 ounce light rum

   1 ounce dark rum

   1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup

   Juice of 1/2 lime

   1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or to taste

   Ice cubes

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except ice in shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes, shake well, and strain mixture into a cocktail glass.

Mar 03 2014

What’s Cooking: Mardi Gras a Carnivale of Food

Republished from February 19, 2012

Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Shove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, what ever you call the day before the Christian Lent, it’s all about food, fatty food. Eat, drink and be merry for at midnight you must fast and give up your favorite vice, except on Sunday, for the next forty days, that is if you’re a Christian. We Pagans just raise an eye brow and enjoy the party and the FOOD!

Traditional foods are all rich, fatty and sweet. Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, catfish, po’ boys to pancakes and beignets are all calorie laden delights that will need 40 days of fasting and exercise to shed the pounds. So to start the party off, here are a few recipes for a hearty gumbo, desert, something to drink and, of course, King Cake. Tradition is the person who discovers the tiny plastic or porcelain baby in his or her slice is branded as the provider of the next cake. In pre-Christian societies whoever found a coin or bean in a special cake was crowned King for the year; afterwards, he was sacrificed to ensure a good harvest – which makes having to pony up for the next cake seem like a mighty good deal.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This recipe serves 10 but can be cut in half

Ingredients:

   12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced

   1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles

   1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes

   1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

   1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)

   2 large celery stalks, chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 11/2-inch pieces

   2 tablespoons paprika

   1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

   3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles

   2 1/2 cups beef broth

   3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice

   8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

   Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preparation:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Buttermilk Beignets

This will make 48 beignets

Ingredients:

   3/4 cup whole milk

   1 1/2 cups buttermilk

   4 teaspoons active dry yeast

   2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

   3 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for flouring work surface

   1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   Peanut oil for frying

   Confectioners’ sugar for serving, as much as you think you’ll need-then double that!

Preparation:

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until small bubbles form at the surface. Remove from the heat, add the buttermilk, and then pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until the dry ingredients are moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough forms a loose ball and is still quite wet and tacky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough aside in a draft-free spot for 1 hour.

Pour enough peanut oil into a large pot to fill it to a depth of 3 inches and bring to a temperature of 375°F over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes). Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out on it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, gently press to flatten, fold it in half, and gently tuck the ends under to create a rough-shaped round. Dust again and roll the dough out into a ½-inch- to ¹/³ inchthick circle. Let the dough rest for 1 minute before using a chef’s knife, a bench knife, or a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares (you should get about 48).

Gently stretch a beignet lengthwise and carefully drop it into the oil. Add a few beignets (don’t overcrowd them, otherwise the oil will cool down and the beignets will soak up oil and be greasy) and fry until puffed and golden brown, turning them often with a slotted spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared plate to drain while you cook the rest. Serve while still warm, buried under a mound of confectioners’ sugar, with hot coffee on the side.

Make ahead:

The beignet dough can be made up to 8 hours in advance of frying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. After cutting the dough, place the beignets on the paper and place another greased sheet of parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top. Wrap the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The beignets can be fried straight from the refrigerator.

King Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

   1/3 cup milk

   1 package active dry yeast

   2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

   2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs

   3 tablespoons granulated sugar

   Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

   1 teaspoon salt

   1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

   1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl

For the Filling and Glaze:

   1/2 cup golden raisins

   1/4 cup bourbon

   3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

   2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

   2 teaspoons grated orange zest

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)

   1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

   Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions:

Make the cake: Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.

Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Make the filling:

Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the glaze:

Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners’ sugar; brush 3 tablespoons glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with bands of colored sugar; drizzle with more glaze.

Hurricane

In the years since Katrina, the only welcome storms in New Orleans are the ones in a glass. Watch out for this fruity, gale-force rum concoction-more than one, and you’ll need to declare yourself a natural disaster.

Because the syrup is hard to come by (and artificially flavored) here is a substitute for it that was well received: a tablespoon of passion fruit sorbet (Häagen Dazs makes one) and a teaspoon of grenadine, per serving.

Ingredients:

   1 ounce light rum

   1 ounce dark rum

   1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup

   Juice of 1/2 lime

   1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or to taste

   Ice cubes

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except ice in shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes, shake well, and strain mixture into a cocktail glass.

Mar 03 2014

Celebrating Mardi Gras

 “laissez les bons temps rouler!”

 photo m1_zps28b27601.gif Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.

A Little History

Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.

The Carnival season, or Mardi Gras, kicked on in the city of New Orleans on January 6th, Twelfth Night, with the traditional Twelfth Night Revelers’ Ball, hosted by the krew of the same name, where the queen of Mardi Gras is chosen, a tradition that began in 1870.

Up until this time in Carnival and Mardi Gras history, there had never been a queen of the celebration. In fact, prior to this time, all parades, balls and tableaux were planned and staged by men. Women did not participate in any fashion until after the tableaux when ladies were summoned from the audience to take part in the dancing.

And now the great surprise of the evening was about to be unveiled. The first queen in the history of the New Orleans Carnival was about to be chosen, crowned and put upon a pedestal to be admired. The huge king cake was brought out for all to witness the proceedings. When the cake was prepared, a golden bean had been placed inside. The court fools were to slice generous servings of the cake and pass them to the ladies, who waited patiently.  [..]

Selection of a queen at the Twelfth Night Revelers Ball through the use of the king cake is still practiced today. In place of a real cake, a huge artificial cake with little drawers is used. One drawer holds a golden bean and the balance, silver beans. The lady selecting the drawer with the golden bean is crowned queen and those choosing drawers containing silver beans are the maids.

The partying, alas, will end at midnight on Shrove Tuesday. So, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Feb 12 2013

Mardi Gras

Republished from Feb 21, 2012

Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.

A Little History

Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.

In other countries Mardi Gras has different names. In Belgium’s city of Binche it is the most important day if the year:

The carnival is the most known of several others that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.

Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche’s inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.

The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on “Shrove” Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is to be aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward evil spirits away with sticks. Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost upwards of $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.

In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Mardi Gras is called Karneval, Fastnacht, or Fasching. Fastnacht means “Eve of the Beginning of the Fast”. One of the largest festivals is in Cologne, Germany:

Traditionally, the “fifth season” (carnival season) is declared open at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of November. The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at downtown square Alter Markt on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. Street carnival, a week-long street festival, also called “the crazy days”, takes place between the Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht) and ends on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch). The highlight of the carnival is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag), two days before Ash Wednesday. All through these days, Cologne folks go out masqueraded. The typical greeting during the festival is Kölle Alaaf!, a Kölsch phrase which can be translated as “Cologne above all!”

In Europe, some of the earliest Carnivales were in Italy. One of the most elegant and sumptuous is in the canal city if Venice:

It is said that the Carnival of Venice was originated from a victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima”, Venice previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. In the honor of this victory, the people started to dance and make reunions in San Marco Square. Apparently this festival started on that period and become official in the renaissance. After a long absence, the carnival return to operate in 1979. the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3,000,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnivals. One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for “La Maschera piu bella”. [..]

Venetian carnival masks

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design,decoration, often had a symbolic, and practical function.[5] Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Carnivals of Brazil:

Carnaval is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Excepted the industries, malls and the carnival related workers, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumption[citation needed] and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches awareness campaigns at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Each Brazilian has its own unique celebration, the most famous, of course, is the one in Rio de Janeiro:

Modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie, largely Portuguese, imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

In the late 19th century, the cordões (literally “cords”, laces or strings in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were pageant groups that paraded through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Today they are known as Blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special t-shirts with themes and/or logos. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods; they include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

Block parades have become an expressive feature of Rio’s Carnival. Today, they number more than 100 and the groups increase each year. Blocos can be formed by small or large groups of revelers with a distinct title with an often funny pun. (Os blocos RJ, para os solteiros, são um lugar para conhecer e até beijar pessoas, or “The blocos in Rio de Janeiro, for the singles, are places to meet and even kiss people.”) They may also note their neighborhood or social status. Before the show, they gather in a square, then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some blocos never leave one street and have a particular place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January, and may last until the Sunday after Carnival.

There occur Blocos parades in nearly every neighborhood throughout the city and metropolitan areas, but the most famous are the ones in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and in downtown Rio. Organizers often compose their own music themes that are added to the performance and singing of classic “marchinhas” and samba popular songs. “Cordão do bola preta” (“Polka Dot Bloco”), that goes through the heart of Rio’s historical center, and “Suvaco do Cristo” (Christ’s statue armpit, referring to the angle of the statue seen from the neighborhood), near the Botanical Garden, are some of the most famous groups. Monobloco has become so famous that it plays all year round at parties and small concerts.

Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations (as well as illegal gambling groups), who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba Schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs four entire nights. They are part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, theme, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.

Feb 10 2013

What’s Cooking: Mardi Gras a Carnivale of Food

Republished from February 19, 2012

Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Shove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, what ever you call the day before the Christian Lent, it’s all about food, fatty food. Eat, drink and be merry for at midnight you must fast and give up your favorite vice, except on Sunday, for the next forty days, that is if you’re a Christian. We Pagans just raise an eye brow and enjoy the party and the FOOD!

Traditional foods are all rich, fatty and sweet. Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, catfish, po’ boys to pancakes and beignets are all calorie laden delights that will need 40 days of fasting and exercise to shed the pounds. So to start the party off, here are a few recipes for a hearty gumbo, desert, something to drink and, of course, King Cake. Tradition is the person who discovers the tiny plastic or porcelain baby in his or her slice is branded as the provider of the next cake. In pre-Christian societies whoever found a coin or bean in a special cake was crowned King for the year; afterwards, he was sacrificed to ensure a good harvest – which makes having to pony up for the next cake seem like a mighty good deal.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This recipe serves 10 but can be cut in half

Ingredients:

   12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced

   1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles

   1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes

   1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

   1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)

   2 large celery stalks, chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 11/2-inch pieces

   2 tablespoons paprika

   1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

   3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles

   2 1/2 cups beef broth

   3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice

   8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

   Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preparation:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Buttermilk Beignets

This will make 48 beignets

Ingredients:

   3/4 cup whole milk

   1 1/2 cups buttermilk

   4 teaspoons active dry yeast

   2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

   3 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for flouring work surface

   1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   Peanut oil for frying

   Confectioners’ sugar for serving, as much as you think you’ll need-then double that!

Preparation:

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until small bubbles form at the surface. Remove from the heat, add the buttermilk, and then pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until the dry ingredients are moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough forms a loose ball and is still quite wet and tacky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough aside in a draft-free spot for 1 hour.

Pour enough peanut oil into a large pot to fill it to a depth of 3 inches and bring to a temperature of 375°F over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes). Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out on it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, gently press to flatten, fold it in half, and gently tuck the ends under to create a rough-shaped round. Dust again and roll the dough out into a ½-inch- to ¹/³ inchthick circle. Let the dough rest for 1 minute before using a chef’s knife, a bench knife, or a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares (you should get about 48).

Gently stretch a beignet lengthwise and carefully drop it into the oil. Add a few beignets (don’t overcrowd them, otherwise the oil will cool down and the beignets will soak up oil and be greasy) and fry until puffed and golden brown, turning them often with a slotted spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared plate to drain while you cook the rest. Serve while still warm, buried under a mound of confectioners’ sugar, with hot coffee on the side.

Make ahead:

The beignet dough can be made up to 8 hours in advance of frying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. After cutting the dough, place the beignets on the paper and place another greased sheet of parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top. Wrap the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The beignets can be fried straight from the refrigerator.

King Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

   1/3 cup milk

   1 package active dry yeast

   2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

   2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs

   3 tablespoons granulated sugar

   Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

   1 teaspoon salt

   1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

   1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl

For the Filling and Glaze:

   1/2 cup golden raisins

   1/4 cup bourbon

   3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

   2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

   2 teaspoons grated orange zest

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)

   1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

   Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions:

Make the cake: Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.

Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Make the filling:

Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the glaze:

Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners’ sugar; brush 3 tablespoons glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with bands of colored sugar; drizzle with more glaze.

Hurricane

In the years since Katrina, the only welcome storms in New Orleans are the ones in a glass. Watch out for this fruity, gale-force rum concoction-more than one, and you’ll need to declare yourself a natural disaster.

Because the syrup is hard to come by (and artificially flavored) here is a substitute for it that was well received: a tablespoon of passion fruit sorbet (Häagen Dazs makes one) and a teaspoon of grenadine, per serving.

Ingredients:

   1 ounce light rum

   1 ounce dark rum

   1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup

   Juice of 1/2 lime

   1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or to taste

   Ice cubes

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except ice in shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes, shake well, and strain mixture into a cocktail glass.

Aug 05 2012

Fiat Lux: Banishing Alienation Through Lights and Loud Noise by Northsylvania

Alienation can be considered part of the process of capitalist exploitation, but it can also mean feeling cut off and isolated from the surrounding world.  Alienation in the Marxist sense means that capitalist production separates the worker from the object or service he produces, leading him to separate the effect of his own labour from the products he uses that are made by others. At the same time, he becomes no more than a product or object himself.

Thus the more the worker by his labor appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in two respects: first, in that the sensuous external world more and more ceases to be an object belonging to his labor – to be his labor’s means of life; and, second, in that it more and more ceases to be a means of life in the immediate sense, means for the physical subsistence of the worker.                                              

In both respects, therefore, the worker becomes a servant of his object, first, in that he receives an object of labor, i.e., in that he receives work, and, secondly, in that he receives means of subsistence. This enables him to exist, first as a worker; and second, as a physical subject. The height of this servitude is that it is only as a worker that he can maintain himself as a physical subject and that it is only as a physical subject that he is a worker. (emphasis his)

This separation can often lead to alienation in the sense that I use it here: the feeling of being cut off from society, which leads to feelings so deadened that the outside word seems unreal. This is a common feature of depression, a disease, and dis-ease is an appropriate description, so common that it is considered the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide.

    Communism, cooperative working associations, and unions were meant to address not only the economic injustice of capitalist working conditions, but also the loss of identity that comes with the lack of control over circumstances in working life. Justina  expresses this aspect in her diary on Venezuelan workers’ cooperatives:                                                                                                                                            

The key to overcoming capitalism’s human devastation and systemic greed is to be found in joining together with other members of one’s community or work place and acting to transform our economy and thus our society into one that places human needs and aspirations at the top of our priorities.

Feb 21 2012

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras en français or Fat Tuesday in English, it is time to party. It’s the last day for some Christians to eat all the food they like and party before the season of fasting before Lent. In many traditions it isn’t just one day. Mardi Gras, or Carnival season, starts in January after 12th Night or the Epiphany, culminating at midnight on the day before Ash Wednesday. English traditions call the day Shrove Tuesday and for many religious Christians a time for confession. Celebrations vary from city to city and by country but many of the traditions are the same masks, beads, parades and parties. In Mobile, Alabama,the former capital of New France, the Mardi Gras social events start in November with “mystic society” balls on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve with more parades and balls in January and February ending on the traditional Tuesday before Lent. And you thought New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro were the party cities, heh. Many if these balls raise large amounts of money for charity, justifying in a way the “decadence”. In other places with a French heritage, like Louisiana, where the revelry also starts weeks before with parades and parties celebrating the arrival of the “Krewes” or organizations that sponsor various parades, the day is an official holiday. Like anyone in New Orleans is going to the office that day. There’s many traditional foods, too, like pancakes, fruit laden sweet breads and sugary pastries. Any food with lots of fat and eggs. Look out arteries here it comes.

A Little History

Mardi Gras was introduced to America in colonial days as a sedate religious tradition by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane.

The expedition, led by Iberville, entered the mouth of the Mississippi River on the evening of March 2, 1699, Lundi Gras, not yet knowing it was the river explored and claimed for France by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1683. The party proceeded upstream to a place on the west bank about 60 miles downriver from where New Orleans is today, where a small tributary emptied into the great river, and made camp. This was on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras day, so in honor of this holiday, Iberville named the spot Point du Mardi Gras (French: “Mardi Gras Point”) and called the small tributary Bayou Mardi Gras. Bienville went on to found Mobile, Alabama in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana. In 1703 French settlers in that city began to celebrate the Mardi Gras tradition. By 1720, Biloxi was made capital of Louisiana. While it had French settlers, Mardi Gras and other customs were celebrated with more fanfare given its new status. In 1723, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to New Orleans, founded in 1718. With the growth of New Orleans as a city and the creolization of different cultures, the varied celebration of Mardi Gras became the event most strongly associated with the city. In more recent times, several U.S. cities without a French Catholic heritage have instituted the celebration of Mardi Gras, which sometimes emerged as grassroots movements.

In other countries Mardi Gras has different names. In Belgium’s city of Binche it is the most important day if the year:

The carnival is the most known of several others that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.

Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche’s inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.

The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on “Shrove” Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is to be aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward evil spirits away with sticks. Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost upwards of $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.

In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Mardi Gras is called Karneval, Fastnacht, or Fasching. Fastnacht means “Eve of the Beginning of the Fast”. One of the largest festivals is in Cologne, Germany:

Traditionally, the “fifth season” (carnival season) is declared open at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of November. The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at downtown square Alter Markt on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent. Street carnival, a week-long street festival, also called “the crazy days”, takes place between the Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht) and ends on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch). The highlight of the carnival is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag), two days before Ash Wednesday. All through these days, Cologne folks go out masqueraded. The typical greeting during the festival is Kölle Alaaf!, a Kölsch phrase which can be translated as “Cologne above all!”

In Europe, some of the earliest Carnivales were in Italy. One of the most elegant and sumptuous is in the canal city if Venice:

It is said that the Carnival of Venice was originated from a victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima”, Venice previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. In the honor of this victory, the people started to dance and make reunions in San Marco Square. Apparently this festival started on that period and become official in the renaissance. After a long absence, the carnival return to operate in 1979. the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3,000,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnivals. One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for “La Maschera piu bella”. [..]

Venetian carnival masks

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design,decoration, often had a symbolic, and practical function.[5] Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Carnivals of Brazil:

Carnaval is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Excepted the industries, malls and the carnival related workers, the country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer accounts for 80% of annual consumption[citation needed] and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches awareness campaigns at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Each Brazilian has its own unique celebration, the most famous, of course, is the one in Rio de Janeiro:

Modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie, largely Portuguese, imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

In the late 19th century, the cordões (literally “cords”, laces or strings in Portuguese) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were pageant groups that paraded through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Today they are known as Blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special t-shirts with themes and/or logos. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods; they include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

Block parades have become an expressive feature of Rio’s Carnival. Today, they number more than 100 and the groups increase each year. Blocos can be formed by small or large groups of revelers with a distinct title with an often funny pun. (Os blocos RJ, para os solteiros, são um lugar para conhecer e até beijar pessoas, or “The blocos in Rio de Janeiro, for the singles, are places to meet and even kiss people.”) They may also note their neighborhood or social status. Before the show, they gather in a square, then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some blocos never leave one street and have a particular place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January, and may last until the Sunday after Carnival.

There occur Blocos parades in nearly every neighborhood throughout the city and metropolitan areas, but the most famous are the ones in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and in downtown Rio. Organizers often compose their own music themes that are added to the performance and singing of classic “marchinhas” and samba popular songs. “Cordão do bola preta” (“Polka Dot Bloco”), that goes through the heart of Rio’s historical center, and “Suvaco do Cristo” (Christ’s statue armpit, referring to the angle of the statue seen from the neighborhood), near the Botanical Garden, are some of the most famous groups. Monobloco has become so famous that it plays all year round at parties and small concerts.

Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations (as well as illegal gambling groups), who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba Schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs four entire nights. They are part of an official competition, divided into seven divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, theme, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.

Feb 19 2012

What’s Cooking: Mardi Gras a Carnivale of Food

Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Shove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, what ever you call the day before the Christian Lent, it’s all about food, fatty food. Eat, drink and be merry for at midnight you must fast and give up your favorite vice, except on Sunday, for the next forty days, that is if you’re a Christian. We Pagans just raise an eye brow and enjoy the party and the FOOD!

Traditional foods are all rich, fatty and sweet. Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, catfish, po’ boys to pancakes and beignets are all calorie laden delights that will need 40 days of fasting and exercise to shed the pounds. So to start the party off, here are a few recipes for a hearty gumbo, desert, something to drink and, of course, King Cake. Tradition is the person who discovers the tiny plastic or porcelain baby in his or her slice is branded as the provider of the next cake. In pre-Christian societies whoever found a coin or bean in a special cake was crowned King for the year; afterwards, he was sacrificed to ensure a good harvest – which makes having to pony up for the next cake seem like a mighty good deal.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

This recipe serves 10 but can be cut in half

Ingredients:

   12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, diced

   1 1/2 pounds smoked fully cooked sausage (such as linguiça), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles

   1 pound andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes

   1/2 pound tasso or smoked ham (such as Black Forest), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

   1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)

   2 large celery stalks, chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   1 8-to 10-ounce green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

   6 large skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 11/2-inch pieces

   2 tablespoons paprika

   1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

   3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles

   2 1/2 cups beef broth

   3 cups (19 to 20 ounces) long-grain white rice

   8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

   Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preparation:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and tasso. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes with chiles and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 to 48 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Buttermilk Beignets

This will make 48 beignets

Ingredients:

   3/4 cup whole milk

   1 1/2 cups buttermilk

   4 teaspoons active dry yeast

   2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

   3 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for flouring work surface

   1/2 teaspoon baking soda

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   Peanut oil for frying

   Confectioners’ sugar for serving, as much as you think you’ll need-then double that!

Preparation:

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until small bubbles form at the surface. Remove from the heat, add the buttermilk, and then pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk in the yeast and the sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until the dry ingredients are moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough forms a loose ball and is still quite wet and tacky, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough aside in a draft-free spot for 1 hour.

Pour enough peanut oil into a large pot to fill it to a depth of 3 inches and bring to a temperature of 375°F over medium heat (this will take about 20 minutes). Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out on it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, gently press to flatten, fold it in half, and gently tuck the ends under to create a rough-shaped round. Dust again and roll the dough out into a ½-inch- to ¹/³ inchthick circle. Let the dough rest for 1 minute before using a chef’s knife, a bench knife, or a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares (you should get about 48).

Gently stretch a beignet lengthwise and carefully drop it into the oil. Add a few beignets (don’t overcrowd them, otherwise the oil will cool down and the beignets will soak up oil and be greasy) and fry until puffed and golden brown, turning them often with a slotted spoon, for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the prepared plate to drain while you cook the rest. Serve while still warm, buried under a mound of confectioners’ sugar, with hot coffee on the side.

Make ahead:

The beignet dough can be made up to 8 hours in advance of frying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. After cutting the dough, place the beignets on the paper and place another greased sheet of parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top. Wrap the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The beignets can be fried straight from the refrigerator.

King Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

   1/3 cup milk

   1 package active dry yeast

   2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

   2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs

   3 tablespoons granulated sugar

   Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

   1 teaspoon salt

   1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

   1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl

For the Filling and Glaze:

   1/2 cup golden raisins

   1/4 cup bourbon

   3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

   2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

   2 teaspoons grated orange zest

   1/4 teaspoon salt

   1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)

   1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

   Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating

Directions:

Make the cake: Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.

Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Make the filling:

Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the glaze:

Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners’ sugar; brush 3 tablespoons glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with bands of colored sugar; drizzle with more glaze.

Hurricane

In the years since Katrina, the only welcome storms in New Orleans are the ones in a glass. Watch out for this fruity, gale-force rum concoction-more than one, and you’ll need to declare yourself a natural disaster.

Because the syrup is hard to come by (and artificially flavored) here is a substitute for it that was well received: a tablespoon of passion fruit sorbet (Häagen Dazs makes one) and a teaspoon of grenadine, per serving.

Ingredients:

   1 ounce light rum

   1 ounce dark rum

   1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup

   Juice of 1/2 lime

   1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or to taste

   Ice cubes

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients except ice in shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes, shake well, and strain mixture into a cocktail glass.

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