Mardi Gras is a special time for the Doctor and the Dad, because it marks the anniversary of when (and where) we first met. Although it turned out that we were living in college dorm rooms about fifty yards away from each other at the time, it took each of us making a 1,000-mile road trip to New Orleans with separate groups of friends for us to meet on Bourbon Street.
We know what you’re wondering – did we exchange beads (wink, wink)?
And the answer is no. Not with each other, at least. We spoke for a grand total of about 45 seconds that day, as we stood in the shoe-destroying street sludge slurping beverages out of oversized plastic fish bowls. Our romance only ignited after we got back to campus. Also, get your mind out of the gutter.
But having gone to Mardi Gras as crazy college kids, we were extremely surprised to happen upon this O’Shaughnessy family blog post entitled “Ten reasons you should take your kids to Mardi Gras.” Our initial reaction was that we can think of at least ten reasons NOT to take your kids to Mardi Gras. (And the street sludge isn’t even in the top five.) But then we reconsidered Mardi Gras from a parents’ point of view and realized that it might be pretty cool – especially since your kids and drunken college kids keep exactly opposite hours anyway.
But in case you’re like us and getting your kids to New Orleans for Mardi Gras just isn’t in the cards this year, here are some of our own family traditions that can help you “let the good times roll” right in your own home!
Everyone can get into wearing fun beads. Or tweak the fun up a notch and add some feather boas and masks to your Mardi Gras ensembles! Just don’t make anybody “earn” them.
Play some music
There’s lots of fun Mardi Gras music out there, so we always like to make a playlist. Turns out, listening to accordions, tubas and washboards is just the thing to cook, eat and dance to.
Bake a King Cake
It’s customary to have a King Cake at Mardi Gras parties. They’re like giant, frosted and overly-sprinkled doughnuts, so what’s not to love? Plus, it’s traditional to hide a tiny toy baby inside the cake after it’s baked, and whoever is lucky enough to get the slice with the baby in it gets to be king or queen for the night. Kids can get into every part of this tradition – helping you bake the cake, going nuts decorating it, and looking for the baby. Here’s our king cake recipe, and you can usually find plenty of tiny toy babies at your local craft store (and at least one or two crammed underneath our couch cushions at any given moment).
Make some gumbo
One of New Orleans’ most delicious culinary traditions is a must-have at our family Mardi Gras parties. The Dad mixes a mean roux, and his gumbo is loaded with special indulgences like shrimp, Andouille sausage, and huge king crab legs. Here’s a recipe that’s pretty close to his (formerly) secret one.
Mardi Gras celebrations traditionally end on Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Christians the world over sacrifice indulgences like sweets, meat, booze and everything else that makes Mardi Gras so great for forty days. So you can feel okay about pigging out like crazy on Mardi Gras because you know you’ll be better tomorrow – even if you really won’t!
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