I wasn’t born in Louisiana. We moved there in 1985, the summer before my junior year. I’ve said before that if you look closely you can still see the claw marks along I-20 where I was
dragged (sounds like a feather boa and a Cher-look-alike would be involved), drugged (with what, Benadryl?), forced against my will to move from my home state of South Carolina to a state where I was convinced I’d have to learn French, ride to school in a pirogue, and fight alligators. I didn’t have to do any of those things, and since my kids and I have lived more of our lives in Louisiana than any other state, we consider ourselves part Louisianian. Maybe one day I’ll dig a little deeper and write about what I’ve grown to love about that quirky little state, but I’m on a deadline, so read faster, please.
Yep, I love Louisiana. Especially this time of year.
We aren’t Catholic, but Mardi Gras in Louisiana is as much of a cultural event as anything. It’s hard to explain, but I think my friend Candace did an amazing job of describing feelings about Mardi Gras that I didn’t even know I had! You really need to read her post. Plus she’s a great photographer, which will make the sad little phone pictures I’m getting ready to post look even more pathetic.
We live a long way from Louisiana and Mardi Gras now but I still wanted to celebrate our love for Louisiana so I decided to create our own version using one of my absolute favorite things about my adopted state: the food! Last night for supper we ate gumbo and homemade king cake. The gumbo was from the freezer. I’d made a pot for Christmas Eve and put the leftovers in the freezer. I made that gumbo from scratch using a roux and everything. I was extremely proud of myself. In fact, you may have seen my press release at the time.
I made the king cake from a recipe I found in Southern Living because they rarely steer me the wrong way. The only thing I changed was I added a little bit of cinnamon to the cream cheese filling.
In case you’re unfamiliar, a king cake is a pastry to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, or when the Magi visited Jesus, and a celebration of his physical manifestation to the Gentile people. Today king cake is served all through the Mardi Gras season. Over the years, many bakers have created their own versions of the king cake, but my true Louisiana friends are very picky about what a king cake should be. I interviewed two friends on Facebook and they were very clear on what makes a king cake the king. Grace insists that it must be oval with a hole in the center. She says it should be more like a bread or cinnamon roll than a cake. And the filling, although she prefers hers sans, should be light, not, and I quote “squish-onto-your-pants-when-you-take-a-bite filling.” Lindsey agreed but added she prefers one baked in New Orleans bakery. Which I do not have here. So this was the best I could do:
The recipe I made makes two cakes and since I didn’t have my act together and my people didn’t get to eat king cake until 9:00 p.m. last night, I sent the other king cake to work with Kelly this morning. On Ash Wednesday. Which probably breaks all kind of Mardi Gras rules and is sure to get my part-Louisianian citizenship revoked.
If that doesn’t, this might. Now, after the king cake is baked, a tiny baby is inserted into the cake to represent Baby Jesus. Traditionally, the person who gets the baby in his or her piece of king cake has to throw the next king cake party or at the least, buy the next king cake. Well, I was fresh out of plastic babies to insert in our cake. So I tried to be resourceful and used what I had on hand:
We purposely chose a figure that didn’t look a thing like Baby Jesus because I truly meant no offense. And for us, the king cake is more about Louisiana culture than it is a religious pastry so we talked about the Epiphany but totally downplayed the significance of the baby representing Jesus. But when boys see Legos they want to play. So when Kelly bit into his piece and found feet, a dramatization ensued.
That’s an ambulance coming to rescue the little man trapped in the king cake.
And that was the sound of all of my traditionalist Louisiana friends leaving my blog forever.
Today I’ve moved on to Valentine’s Day plans. I have to make our traditional Valentine’s Day breakfast (an idea I stole from my wonderfully creative friend Tanya), chocolate covered strawberries. And I need to figure out a way to not be with my kids for a few minutes so I can get a little Valentine’s searcie for them. I still haven’t figured out how other homeschool moms do that. Anyone want to help me figure that one out? We are always together. Unless I’m in the bathroom. And somehow I don’t think they’d be thrilled to receive hotel soaps for Valentine’s Day.
I hope your Mardi Gras-Ash Wednesday-Valentine’s Day week is full of time for celebrating, reflecting on what’s most important, and spending time with the ones you love.
Laissez bon temps rouler!