Though I’ll be in Florida for Lundi and Mardi Gras (and haven’t celebrated either in several years due to work), I have plenty of Carnival experience under my belt. I’ve compiled a list of festive recipes and tips for surviving and making the most of this unique and revelry-filled holiday.
1) Bring water.
In order to secure a prime location along the parade route, you’re going to need to get there early in the morning. Since parades roll well into the evening, that means you’re going to be outside all. day. long. Add some bottles to your cooler—or do like my husband and carry a camelbak.
2) Wear comfortable shoes—and layers.
While you may not be walking a whole lot, you will be on your feet. I’d recommend a pair of sneakers you won’t mind getting dirty. While I’ve nearly frozen and burned to a crisp different years, it’s usually warm during the day and cool at night, so dress accordingly.
3) Don’t forget a bit of cash.
Most restaurants and businesses close their restrooms to non-patrons, but lots of people rent out port-o-potties. Pay the $5 for a wristband—you’ll use it, I promise. (Disgusting, I know, but MG is the one time of the year where it’s acceptable—and necessary—to use one of these horrendous contraptions.)
4) For the love of God, no public nudity!
You’ll look like an obnoxious tourist, or, worse, you might get arrested.
5) Bring some food.
You may decide to eat at a restaurant or from a food cart, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been starving after the parade. A cooler full of sandwiches is a hangry, tipsy girl’s (or guy’s) best friend. Trust me.
If you’re hosting a party:
1) Prepare our favorite, flavorful jambalaya.
Since you’ll probably be drinking, you’ll want something filling and carb-y. Plus, it’s a classic Creole and Cajun dish.
2) You must have king cake!!!
There are lots of recipes on the internet. We have a go-to recipe that’s classic and delicious, but if you’re short on time and/or skill, try this no-hassle crescent roll version. I’ve never had it myself, but I’ve heard plenty of good reviews. Or, if you don’t mind the hefty price for overnight shipping, order one from Randazzo’s.
4) Pay homage to the mudbug.
Fresh, boiled crawfish are preferable (we always have to get a few pounds at K Jean during Endymion), but Mardi Gras falls early this year—before crawfish season really begins. Try using frozen tails for crawfish rolls. If you’re having a sit-down meal, Emeril’s crawfish pasta is a favorite in our house.
5) Eat a MoonPie (or several).
New Orleans’ parades may be more famous, but Mobile’s celebration is fabulous, too, with its ubiquitous throw, the MoonPie. Though delicious straight from the package (or heated in the microwave and served à la mode), you could try fashioning them into bread pudding.
Places, events, and things of interest:
1) The Mobile Carnival Museum.
Learn about the history of the United States’ oldest Mardi Gras celebration, admire a collection of costumes and crowns, and discover how elaborate floats are constructed.
2) Joe Cain Day (the Sunday before Mardi Gras)
Joseph Stillwell Cain—or rather, his alter ego, Chief Slacabamorinico—is credited for reviving Mobile’s parades in 1867, after the Civil War. Today, the Joe Cain Procession or “People’s Parade” rolls in his honor. Visit his gravesite in historic Church Street Cemetery, and don’t miss his Merry Widows and Mistresses “mourning” his death during the parade.
3) Margaret Brown’s documentary, The Order of Myths.
Controversial due to its examination of segregation and racism throughout much of Mobile’s Mardi Gras history, the film premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and has won several awards since.
Known for their elaborate costumes (which can weigh over 100 pounds) and joie de vivre, their history is somewhat mysterious. The various tribes evoke New Orleans’ African and Native American cultures.
5) Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
MGW is located on the Mississippi River. Visitors can tour a working float warehouse, which supplies floats used in parades not only in New Orleans, but all across the North America.