It's Mardi Gras – Make Some Gumbo!
BY: Martie Duncan, InSinkErator® Subject Matter Expert
Celebrate in Style With Martie Duncan
Since most people in the South pronounce my name “mardi” – Mardi Gras has always been a holiday I love to celebrate… I’m the Queen of “Martie Gras!”
I have made the trek to New Orleans and Mobile for parties and parades but most often, I find myself celebrating Mardi Gras at home in Birmingham. There’s a community of people here with ties to Mobile and New Orleans, including many transplants who made Birmingham their home after Katrina. For me, celebrating Mardi Gras is more about the food than the carnival. It’s a time to make gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, beignets, or to share a King Cake with friends and explain what it means to ‘find the baby.’
First, let me answer a few questions I’m most often asked about Mardi Gras.
What is Mardi Gras? It is the season of events surrounding Carnival, which begins after Epiphany ands end on Fat Tuesday. (This year, that is February 9.)
Fat Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, and so it is a final time to indulge before giving up favorite foods for Lent.
Today, many cities along the Gulf coast with French Colonial heritage celebrate Mardi Gras with parades, masquerade balls, and large food festivals. Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras began in Mobile, Alabama – not New Orleans – when in 1703 French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration. As settlers migrated west to New Orleans, the tradition accompanied them there.
Why is there a baby in the King Cake? The cake is associated with Epiphany celebrations at the end of Christmas season. A figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, and is said to represent the Baby Jesus. The person who finds the baby in his or her slice of cake is designated king or queen for the evening and is said to receive good luck and prosperity in the year ahead.
What is your favorite Mardi Gras recipe? I have a sweet tooth so I love to make beignets and King Cake, but my number one requested recipe is my gumbo. Outside of fried chicken and biscuits, gumbo is probably the number one recipe associated with Southern cuisine. The secret to a great gumbo is in the roux and having the patience to stir it to that dark brown almost chocolate color. I learned about making roux (a French technique combining fat and flour as a thickener) from the Godfather of Cajun and Creole cooking, Chef John Folse. Together, we set the world record for the largest pot of gumbo: more than 5,000 lbs. in a single pot!
Here’s my recipe for gumbo – friends from all over the world have made it and it always gets rave reviews from the cook as well as their guests. And when you’re finished, cleanup is easy with your InSinkErator® garbage disposal!
And “Laissez les bons temps rouler” Let the good times roll!