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Mardi Gras unmasked

Published January 11th, 2016

I am writing to you from New Orleans, in the heart of Louisiana, USA – in the midst of Carnival season! It's the time of year when giant, gorgeous and elaborate floats sail down the streets.

School is out, folks are off work and everyone is in costume. (We refer to it as being masked.)

Drinks are being poured, gumbo is being cooked and music is everywhere. You are likely to be pelted by beads, and it will be thrilling. Here's what you need to get started.

Mudbugs

Tony's Seafood in Baton Rouge (a 90-minute drive from New Orleans). This place is deep. It's a big market and grocer in an old service station where there's more seafood than you could ever want and all the fixins to make it spicy and delicious.

#LouisianaCrawfish #SeafoodHeaven #TonysSeafood

A photo posted by Michelle (@lilydales) on

Look out for a huge pool of live catfish and guys in big rubber boots to scoop them up with nets at your request. Crawfish, my favorite crustaceans, come into season right about now.

Figure you'll need two-to-three pounds of them. Per person. Boil them with corn and potatoes, then pour them out on a newspaper-covered table and work for your dinner. (You better invite me so I can show you how to peel them!) Don't forget the Abita beer.

Tony's can FedEx these little guys to your door nationwide. But it is a wild field trip, so go there if you can.

King Cake

Colorful celebration cake, how I love you so. It's hard to walk around town without getting offered several slices of this cinnamon-swirled treat.

Traditionally, it's slathered in purple, yellow and green sugar icing. Sometimes it is filled with cream cheese or pralines or strawberry cream. It's delicious all ways.

Gambino's, Haydel's and Randazzo's are a few of the old-timey New Orleans bakeries that serve royal versions of this Mardi Gras staple. I am excited to try Sucre's on Magazine Street. It's gorgeous, gold, and supposedly the tastiest in town.

All king cakes have a bean or plastic figurine (usually a baby) baked inside. Whoever finds the baby in their slice is responsible for making or buying next years' king cake.


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Things In A Bucket

Believe it or not, Popeyes Fried Chicken is traditional Mardi Gras fare. (It's local.) Spice and grease go well with parading and beer. A grilled shrimp po'boy and a bag of Zapp's potato chips from Guy's Food Store will also hit the spot.

You should really cook a pot of gumbo – or get someone's mamma to make you some. If you want to attempt your own, look for John Besh's photo-centric cookbooks. He is a local darling and has amazing restaurants around town.

Parades

I could write a book on this subject – and many folks already have – so I will focus on one day's festivities. Wake up early and go to Zulu. You owe it to yourself.

It rolls at 8am (ouch, hangover) but if you go you might – might – catch a glitter-covered coconut. (If you do, you will have had a very successful day indeed).

Next is Rex, King of Carnival. Expect ancient, over-the-top floats and classy beads and doubloons.

Watch the parades on St Charles Avenue. Steer clear of the French Quarter this time of year unless invited to a private house party.

Costumes

You will want to be in costume. Or else it will feel like going to the Kentucky Derby without a hat.

It's official. Got me a Bacchus necklace!! #bacchusparade2015

A photo posted by @carolinemagnolia on

Sunday's Bacchus Parade calls for an ornate purple kaftan with a lot of gold embroidery. Tuesday calls for a rainbow dress I made with duct tape and a foam cloud. Get creative.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans begins February 9 in 2016.


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Author: Clare Crespo

This article originally appeared on Fathom.

This article was written by Clare Crespo from Fathom and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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