Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

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Welcome to Mardi Gras 2010

January 5th, 2010 · 25 Comments

The official start of Mardi Gras or carnival season in New Orleans starts on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, which marks the Feast of Epiphany, also known as the Twelfth Night of Christmas.  It marks the day the wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child. By doing so they ‘revealed’ or ‘made known’ Jesus to the world as Lord and King. As the Mardi Gras season starts this year Fat Tuesday falls on February 16, 2010, always the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent for fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church.

“If you go to New Orleans You ought to go see the Mardi Gras.” That famous lyric in the song “Go to the Mardi Gras” as sung by Professor Longhair can be heard every year on most Crescent City radio stations during Mardi Gras season. This YouTube video includes the song made famous and still heard today, along with some images from some of the carnival seasons of past.

Mardi Gras Series Blog Team

Drick Perry who has Drick’s Rambling Café blog and I have teamed up as we both start promoting Mardi Gras on our respective blog’s, specifically Drick concentrates on the Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras influence, and I will focus on the New Orleans Mardi Gras traditions. Please join me with Drick and his first post in the series entitled Mardi Gras – Cajun Pick-Me-Ups.

The King Cake

One of the great treats for Mardi Gras season is the magnificent King Cake parties that start up, and becomes a boon for local bakeries and markets. Estimates show that New Orleans area bakeries and markets sell around 4,000 to 5,000 King Cakes a day during carnival.

King Cake

While the days that King Cakes are available at local bakeries and groceries in and around southeast Louisiana, in particular New Orleans seem to get extended a few days every year, traditionally King Cakes are only available during the Mardi Gras season. The typical King Cake is an oval or round shaped dough which is formed from a yeast risen sweet dough similar to cinnamon roll or Danish dough. Recipes vary from bakery to restaurant to grocery, but the basic King Cake dough is laced with lots of cinnamon and sugar and topped with icing and then sprinkled with tinted sugars of purple, green and gold. Many variations of fillings are available also depending on the shop, but some of my favorite fillings are cream cheese, raspberry, lemon, cherry, blueberry and my all time favorite is my chocolate filled King Cake. Inside each king cake is a small plastic baby, which the baker gently hides after it is baked and cooled. At Mardi Gras gatherings whoever finds the piece of cake with the baby is crowned king or queen for the day and must bring a king cake to the next party. From junior through high school every Mardi Gras season some of our classes would celebrate a weekly party to honor the long tradition.

A select few bakeries’ offer to ship king cakes including Haydel’s, Randazzo’s and others, usually overnight or 2 day shipping is preferred. When I operated Boudreaux’s Restaurant I sold about 2 to 3 dozen king cakes a week during the Mardi Gras season, I wished they were as popular the rest of the year too!

The History of King Cake

The New Orleans custom began in the late 1800’s and celebrates Epiphany with cakes that are baked to honor the three kings. The oval or round shape signifies their circular journey to confuse King Herod. The plastic baby represents Jesus. In addition, the search for the baby is represented by the mystery of who will get the slice with the plastic baby in it. However, with legalities the way they are many do not place the baby in the cake, but will leave it out for the customer to place it, removing any liability from the shop for supposed folks who may swallow the plastic baby. For more history about Mardi Gras and King Cakes, check out the links at the end of this post.

King Cake Babies

Ever wonder why Mardi Gras colors are purple, green and gold? The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple (symbolic of justice), green (symbolic of faith) and gold (symbolic of power). The accepted story behind the original selection of these colors originates from 1872 when the Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia visited New Orleans. It is said that the Grand Duke came to the city in pursuit of an actress named Lydia Thompson. During his stay, he was given the honor of selecting the official Mardi Gras colors by the Krewe of Rex…thus, did these colors also become the colors of the House of Romanoff. The 1892 Rex Parade theme (“Symbolism of Colors”) first gave meaning to the representation of the official Mardi Gras colors. Interestingly, the colors of Mardi Gras influenced the choice of school colors for the Louisiana arch-rival colleges, Louisiana State University and Tulane University. When LSU was deciding on its colors, the stores in New Orleans had stocked-up on fabrics of purple, green and gold for the upcoming Mardi Gras Season. LSU, opting for purple and gold, bought a large quantity of the available cloth. Tulane purchased much of the only remaining color …green (Tulane’s colors are green and white).

If you have never been to Mardi Gras or seen or eaten a King Cake, now is the time to share in the enduring New Orleans tradition! Tomorrow I will post my favorite King Cake recipe so you too can make your own. On the other hand, you can have one shipped and you too can celebrate one of the biggest Aha! moments in recorded history.

References

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Tags: Cajun · Creole · Culture · Events · Heritage · History · Holidays · Mardi Gras · Traditions · Travel

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sizzlechefNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Nice one. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

  • 2 JessieNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    that is a colorful cake, perfect for Mardi Gras! I can’t believe that it is so soon too. I remember it was in March one year.

  • 3 Ryan BoudreauxNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    @Jessie, The date for Mardi Gras is always 40 days before Easter. And Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring. So it can be as early as February 3 to as late as March 9.

  • 4 DrickNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Glad you’re doing the King Cake .. Trix was asking for it….glad to be a part of your celebration this year …thanks for all you do, I know I will enjoy working with you…

  • 5 Bibiana BaileyNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing about Mardi Gras. I love to read about traditions. I never experienced Mardi Gras and I always wanted to. So now I am ready if and when hubs decides to take me.

  • 6 My Man's BellyNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I miss Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Thanks for the bit of history…it took me right back there.

  • 7 John D.No Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Great post! I loved reading all the Mardi Gras lore.

  • 8 bernie kasperNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I don’t know which I would enjoy more the partying or the food, on second thought I would just indulge in both !!

  • 9 Natasha - 5 Star FoodieNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Love the idea of these post series and will be sure to follow along! I would love to make the king cake for Mardi Gras this year!

  • 10 LanaNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Nice post! Thanks for the history on the king cake and mardi gras colors…never knew all that.

  • 11 TrixNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I LOVE Professor Longhair! Does the Presbytere in NOLA still have their Mardi Gras exhibit up? It’s awesome. Everyone should see it if they have a chance. Cannot wait to see your King Cake recipe. I have a Mam Papaul’s king cake mix … are they good? I’m afraid to make it – no one up here does all that, and what if Poppa Trix and I eat the whole thing?

  • 12 EmilyNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Oh how awesome is this?!??! What a cool thing you and Drick are doing! Thanks for sharing!! If I could only be in New Orleans this exciting time of year!

  • 13 Ryan BoudreauxNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    @Trix, The Presbytere Mardi Gras exhibit is up through the end of January according to their web site: http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/Presbex.htm

  • 14 BethNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Awesome – this is a must try recipe. Love the colors.

  • 15 pegasuslegendNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I bought those on my cakes every year had no clue what they were till now they just were so cute….now I will learn the culture behind it thank you!!!!

  • 16 The Chickenless ChickNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Very cool… never knew that about the colors! Thanks for sharing. Look forward to your king cake recipe.

  • 17 redkathyNo Gravatar // Jan 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Very interesting history. I had no idea that Mardi Gras was aligned with Epiphany and Lent, wonderful time to celebrate. Wish I could order one of those King Cakes, they sound fabulous.

  • 18 penny aka jeroxieNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2010 at 12:15 am

    So colourful! This is the first time I heard about King Cakes. Thanks for sharing.

  • 19 Casey AngelovaNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2010 at 3:36 am

    I have never been to N.O., but I have some friends from the area and they brought my attention to the king cake. I was fascinated about baking a plastic baby Jesus in dough. The though of accidentally eating/biting/maiming or swallowing Jesus might be construed as somewhat sacrilegious. Since my initial discussion about King Cake, I have become quite smitten with the phrase “sweet baby jesus”! I have an inkling to make a King Cake this year, unless my lovely friend Jeri Ann sends another one to Bulgaria from Haydel’s! Happy Mardi Gras!!!!

  • 20 Conor @ HoldtheBeefNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Oh this sounds like fun. I’d heard about the Mardi Gras before, but really didn’t know much about it. Sounds like it’s worth a visit at least once in my life 🙂

  • 21 wasabi primeNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I love the tradition of Mardi Gras, and not just the crazy party aspect. There’s such an amazing history and almost mythological sense to everything, whether it’s in activities or the food prepared.

  • 22 pegasuslegendNo Gravatar // Jan 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    so much fun would love to be there wow this a such a great party time

  • 23 Ms. SunshinenvyNo Gravatar // Jan 11, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I didn’t realize Mardi Gras start so early. I thought my cousin was saying some time towards the end of January. I guess she was wrong! I was hoping to make it down there for Mardi Gras this year, but due to everyone’s (different) schedules, we couldn’t find a date suitable for all of us. Perhaps 2011 then. You folks do know how to enjoy good foods and a good party! I love N.O.!

  • 24 zerrinNo Gravatar // Jan 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    This cake looks so bright. Perfect for a king:)

  • 25 Amanda Hite @sexythinkerNo Gravatar // Feb 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Just wanted to stop by and tell you that you are awesome.