It’s that time of year again in New Orleans. The live oaks groan from their first dusting of mardi gras beads. Glitter starts to seep into every crack in your floorboards. Parade maps are checked before leaving the house, and emergency bags are packed with cash, snacks, and beer. Although you can’t stand the sight of king cake anymore, you still eat that last slice. Because there aren’t that many days left. It’s almost Mardi Gras.
While most of the rest of the country follows a similar list for an approaching blizzard and may have a pancake on Fat Tuesday itself, New Orleans and other cities around the Gulf Coast are in the middle of Mardi Gras season. It’s a different world, and one where food (not surprisingly) figures prominently. At the Southern Food & Beverage Museum we have a few items on permanent display celebrating the connections between food and Mardi Gras.
Have you heard of King Cake? This delicious brioche-like cake is covered in green, yellow, and purple sugar, usually cinnamon flavored and now filled with any number of different flavors, from cream cheese to coconut. While we don’t always have any on hand for you to try, we do have a fascinating display of the "fèves" or trinkets that are hidden inside King Cakes. While traditionally you would have been crowned “king” upon finding the fève in your slice, in today’s world you have to buy the next King Cake! Tiny plastic babies are the norm in most cakes, but we are proud to showcase the collection of Alberta Lewis, an artist who made distinctive porcelain figurines for Haydel’s Bakery.
Not all the food at MG is edible though. We have an envy-inducing collection of hand decorated coconuts from the Krewe of Zulu, a coveted Fat Tuesday throw, alongside cork beads and cookbooks from other krewes. We even have a small walking float from the first Mardi Gras after Hurricane Katrina, showing off a variety of satirical food items made to give parade goers a little something to smile at.
Stop by and see our exhibits anytime you’re in New Orleans to get a little taste of how we do Carnival here. If you’re coming during Mardi Gras, be sure to check our hours! If you’re still in town for Ash Wednesday, be sure to come to our special Lenton lunch demonstration from 11 AM to 1:30 PM. We’ll be making a delicious local seafood jambalaya instead of our regular chicken and sausage version in deference to the New Orleans Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter.