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I want to be a Mardi Grasdian

Many years ago, in junior high in Dallas, my history teacher asked why a classmate was absent.

“She’s at Mardi Gras,” another student said.

“Well, that’s not an excused absence.”

“Uh, yeah it is,” the student said. “It’s for religious reasons! She’s… Mardi Grasdian."

I didn’t understand Mardi Gras before I lived in New Orleans. The king cakes I’d tried were unimpressive, and the rest of it had a “Girls Gone Wild” feel. It didn’t help that my only pre-New Orleans Mardi Gras experience was during my freshmen year at college in St. Louis (home of the second biggest Mardi Gras in the U.S.), where it was freezing and I saw breasts. Yes, those are my two take-aways. There was also a parade.

And then, in 2006, I moved to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project and had my first New Orleans Mardi Gras. As the (volunteer) volunteer coordinator, I had a second job waiting tables. The restaurant was on Bourbon Street, and everyone worked the five days leading up to Fat Tuesday. When New Orleans journalist Chris Rose says, "Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge,” that is true, unless you’re working in the French Quarter with the tourists (you should read that column in full. Also, to get a sense of the mess of Katrina, you should read Rose’s 1 Dead in Attic. I’ve just finally bought it.) 

Drunks and rowdiness and waiting tables and all, I still loved it. I loved it because it was more than one parade on one day. It was a whole new world of my 60-year-old landlady-housemate and her costume trunk; it was Mardi Gras decorations popping up weeks before that big Tuesday, on pristine houses in the Garden District and on FEMA trailers in St. Bernard; it was learning about krewes and Mardi Gras ladders and Zulu coconuts and buying lots of king cakes because actually, they are delicious. Just read the Chris Rose column. That’s about it. 

I would like to go back and do Mardi Gras properly. I would also like to go to everyone else’s Mardi Gras/Carnaval/Fasnacht/Fasching. I have been missing Mardi Gras since 2008 and trying to create some Mardi Gras spirit wherever I am. Last year, we stumbled on a parade in Galveston, Texas, which was a pleasant surprise. We also went to a crawfish boil at Selena’s in Louisville. 

Mardi Gras parade in Galveston, TX

Mardi Gras parade in Galveston, TX

This year, to brighten up the New England winterscape, I made my first king cake and listened to a Spotify Mardi Gras playlist. (This is the recipe I used.) Today, like every year, I am wearing my Mardi Gras-colored tie of beads. These are sad substitutes — there’s not even a baby in the cake. Yet as an aspiring Mardi Grasdian, the least I can do is remind you that it’s not just any Tuesday.

Happy Mardi Gras, friends. Keep your shirts on. They throw the beads anyway.

31 Days of Louisville Love: Crawfish Boils at Selena's


We’re about to move to a city where fresh seafood is readily available. We already ate a fantastic lobster sandwich during our quick visit, and I plan to try many more. But I’m still going to miss Selena’s crawfish boils. 

Louisville is the first place where I ate whole crawfish. I grew up in Texas and spent half a year in New Orleans, where I worked with at least one shrimper. I got invited to a pig roast and a shrimper’s ball, I ate plenty of crawfish étouffée, but I never went to a crawfish boil until Selena’s. 

A few times a year, Selena’s Restaurant at Willow Lake Tavern flies in a bunch of crawfish and shrimp (and supposedly blue crab, but I haven’t seen a notice for that yet). Since last spring, I’ve been to three of their boils and split a bucket of mudbugs with a NOLA expat, who’s a crawfish-eating-pro. She taught me how to separate the head and body (I’m not a head sucker; it’s a little salty for me), pull off the first few shell segments from the tail, and get to the tail meat. We’ve only attempted three pounds (except for the nine pounds we had with our Mardi Gras group), but I think we could probably each eat our own three-pound bucket. 

Selena’s is a out of the way, and the last two times I’ve been, the weather’s been unkind (snow and then blinding rain). But a crawfish boil’s the best way to celebrate Mardi Gras, there’s always Abita, and if you can fit it in after the crawfish, their bread pudding is fantastic. I think I should unsubscribe from their mailing list so their reminders don’t make me homesick. In the meantime, what kind of seafood-eating should I get into in Boston besides lobster rolls and clam bakes? And how do you get invited to a clam bake?