Where’s the Baby?

Sunday Bec held her annual Mardi Gras party. It’s a favorite for all of the family. Everyone comes. Everyone eats. Everyone drinks. Everyone laughs. The kids – and there are always a LOT of them – play catch and hide-and-seek and the girl kids play something mysterious on the side of the house that we all try really hard not to think about.

Sunday, sometime late afternoon, as we waited for Erik’s gumbo to be just PERFECT, Grace (who is the eldest of Dad and Mom’s great-grandkids and drawing dangerously close to teen-age) wondered aloud, “What does Mardi Gras mean?”

I spoke up first. “It’s French for Fat Tuesday,” I explained. “It’s the day before Ash Wednesday.”

Her blank look told me she didn’t know what Ash Wednesday was. Given that she and her family are faithful church-goers, I had to remind myself that not all religions recognize Ash Wednesday or even Lent. And my explanation would not have particularly impressed the nuns who taught me about sacrifice during the 40 days prior to the joyous celebration of Easter. Lord knows Grace wouldn’t have understood the notion of getting ashes spread in the shape of a cross on your forehead.

At the end of the explanation, I simply said, “It’s the day you eat and drink a whole lot before you start a period of sacrifice in preparation for Easter.” That worked. Eating and drinking and celebrating are notions our whole family can understand.

There was jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, maque choux, muffaletta sandwiches, and, of course, the final decadence – the King Cake. This year, there was not only a cake with a baby in it per the custom….

….but an additional dozen cupcakes in which a baby was inside one.  And believe me, ladies and gentlemen, it was all about the baby. Asher (left) found the baby in the cake, and Carter found the baby in the cupcake. Both managed to avoid choking, and proudly wore the hats indicating their victory (after eating the candy that was inside)…..

Sunday’s Mardi Gras celebration included almost all the great grands, with the exception of Court’s kids, who were in Denver.

We were able to assemble the great-grands for about a 30-second period, just long enough for Kacy to snap a photo.

Dave with three of his kids — Kacy, Jessie, and Christopher. Brooke was unable to attend.

Ava and Kelsie take a quick break from girl stuff. And, by the way, they both have new shoes and dresses. And Kelsie’s theory is that if one set of beads is good, 10 is even better.

Today is actually Fat Tuesday, and we will enjoy a good meal tonight. Tomorrow, let the fasting and sacrifice begin!

Like N’Awlins

eating-mardi-gras-2017As I hugged my sister Bec goodbye yesterday evening, the smell of jambalaya and gumbo still in the air and the dusting of powdered sugar from the beignets still on my jeans, we speculated as to why this particular gathering each year is so much fun.

“The delicious food?” I suggested.

“Maybe,” she said. “But I think it’s just because we get together for no other reason than to be together and enjoy one another.”

The gathering about which I am speaking is our annual Mardi Gras party. And when I say our, I mean Bec’s, because while we all contribute, she is the hostess with the mostess, and has to clean up all of the powdered sugar that I missed in my rudimentary counter wipe-down. Because you can’t cover hot beignets with powdered sugar without getting it places other than the beignets. She will likely be cleaning up powdered sugar until Easter.

As usual, Erik provided the bulk of the meal — his jambalaya and his gumbo, both of which were delicious…..

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He makes enough to feed an army, which is a good thing, because that left enough for some of us to take a bit home for lunch tomorrow. While both were yummy, this year the gumbo hit the spot for me. Anyone who has made real gumbo recognizes the patience and skill it takes to make a roux that color.

Making its premier at Bec’s annual party were the beignets, those hot fried pieces of dough covered — COVERED — in powdered sugar. The treats were provided by Jessie, with some help from her dad (my brother David)….

 

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Also making its debut at our Mardi Gras celebration were drinks called French 75. These amazing concoctions originated from the famous New Orleans’ restaurant Arnaud’s, and consist of gin, champagne, fresh lemon juice and something sweet. Josey used Agave nector. They were, in a word, yum….

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But of course beignets aren’t quite enough dessert for us, because if there isn’t a King Cake, it isn’t Mardi Gras….

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And where there is a King Cake, there must be a baby hidden within. Tradition has it that whoever gets the baby in his or her piece of cake (and manages not to choke on it) must host the next year’s Mardi Gras party. Since many of the cake partakers were under the age of 11, the tradition was tweaked so that the one getting the baby was instead crowned King or Queen of the party, with a scepter to prove his or her royalty. Queen Mackenzie Rose was the lucky winner, shown here with her scepter….

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As for Jenna, she may not have gotten the baby, but she certainly is the proud wearer of the most beads….

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We may not make it to New Orleans for Mardis Gras this year once again, but we certainly have our own kind of celebration.

Boil It Up

Every year my sister Bec has a Mardi Gras party at her house – not on Fat Tuesday since many of her loved ones still work hard for their money and aren’t available during the week. Instead, traditionally she has it on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday (Pleasantly Plump Sunday?).

This year the party didn’t happen on either Pleasantly Plump Sunday or Fat Tuesday, the primary reason being that this year the Super Bowl was held the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. And we all know what transpired on that day…..THE BRONCOS KICKED US SOME BOOTY AND MADE CAM RETHINK HIS DABBING. And by dabbing, I’m talking about the dance and not about what Mom does to get fresh stains out of tablecloths.

She postponed the party, and every time she would begin talking about an alternate date, something would come up. Bill and I went to Denver. Erik and Josey were tied up with something or other. So our family never got our Cajun fix.

We thought that would be reversed Saturday as Bec and Bill and I went to the Southwest Cajun Festival held in Chandler. And as an aside, that community does love itself some festivals – the Great American BBQ and Beer Festival, the Ostrich Festival, the Chandler Chuck Wagon Cookoff, Cinco de Mayo (which features the ever-popular Chihuahua races), on and on and on. The town government must have determined that the amount of money these festivals bring in offsets any additional money spent on police and fire protection or Chihuahua control. Or else they just like to have a hell of a good time.

Anyway, like all good festivals, we had to stand in line to prove we were of drinking age, stand in line to get the ensuing wrist band, stand in line to purchase tickets for drinks, and of course stand in line to purchase food. Being a Cajun festival, there were a surprising number of unexpected Cajun restaurants. I say surprising because suddenly BBQ restaurants were Cajun/BBQ and Mexican restaurants were Cajun/Mexican. In fact, what appeared to us to be one of the few actual Cajun restaurants had a line that rivaled that of a new iPhone release, and it went on ALL DAY LONG. So we settled for a Cajun/BBQ restaurant and ended up with pretty darn good po’ boy fish sandwiches served with red beans and rice. That’s Cajun, right, cher?

Jessie shows Lexie and Jenna how to have some fun in the bayou.

Jessie shows Lexie and Jenna how to have some fun in the bayou.

We settled in to listen to some music, when suddenly I look up to see my niece Jessie walking towards us. Jessie graduates from the University of Northern Arizona in a couple of weeks, but she assured us that she has, for all intents and purposes, checked out. Mentally, if not physically. We’ve all been there. Nevertheless, I thought she would be in Flagstaff.

She was there with her sister Kacy, and suddenly it was a party. And when Bec’s son Erik and daughter-in-law Josey showed up a bit later, it was not only a party, but a family reunion. Who knew?

While our po’ boy sandwich scratched the itch for Cajun food a bit, it didn’t take away the itch for me altogether. And apparently it didn’t for Bec either, because suddenly, in the middle of a set of music that was more blues than Cajun, she said, “Voila!” (Well, she didn’t exactly say voila, but I’m using that term to emphasize the lightbulb that went on over her head.) “If you guys come over on Monday, I will do a little shrimp boil.”

And so we did, and so she did.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Kate and Jade prepare to eat some shrimp at the shrimp boil.

Kate and Jade prepare to eat some shrimp at the shrimp boil.

Yum.

Yum.

boil food