Today is Ash Wednesday and carnival season is over. Gone are the revelers and the beads and in their place, the leaner times of the Lenten season.
But yesterday, people all over the world celebrated in high style whether in New Orleans, Rio, or my favorite LITTLE LOCAVORES™ kid's first grade classroom.
I've actually never been to the Crescent City's celebration. In fact, I've only been to New Orleans twice. Nevertheless, the city holds a special place in my heart. My first trip was for my good friend Jen's wedding. The history, the music, the food all captivated me. Were I ever to retire to southern climes, my condo wouldn't be on a Florida waterfront, but a French quarter balcony (as long as it hasn't sunk into the Ponchartrain).
This year, I shared my love of New Orleans and its singular cultural pleasures with Thor's classmates. We started out reading a children's book entitled Gaston Goes to Mardi Gras, which summarizes the holiday's traditions in kid size language. We then turned our attention to mask making. Before the class, I had cut masks free style from paper plates. The kids bejeweled and feathered them to their whimsy. Using leftover chopsticks, we gave each mask a handle.
After making masks, I served up a homemade King Cake,* in which I'd shoved a gold-ish coin in the baby's stead. We crowned the coin's finder Rex (well, actually Regina since the lucky child was little girl). She then presided over our miniature Mardi Gras parade, more scrum than organized formation.
According to the darling book of thank yous that I received afterward, the celebration was a huge hit with Thor's classmates.
Our more adult celebration later in the evening involved Sazeracs and New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp, a recipe that I wrote about a little over a year ago.
* I used Emeril's King Cake recipe, just dividing it in half. I decorated it with India Tree's naturally dyed sprinkles, a product that I learned of from Christina Le Beau's blog Spoonfed. The result may be a little different in color than the ordinary King's Cake, but far more comforting to serve.
* UPDATE: A new twitter friend sent me a link to a Norwegian kings cake. With a kid named Thor, I know what I'll be making next Shrove Tuesday. Thanks Active Kids Club.