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Chef's Hat: It's Mardi Gras time

You typically think of Mardi Gras as a party down in New Orleans. This holiday started thousands of years ago as a pagan type event that celebrated spring and fertility. The focus has switched and today it is a big holiday with many Roman Catholic populations and is celebrated around the world as a pre-Lenten festival.

Unfortunately for us in Minnesota, Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. Thus, we have to work that day. But for many people throughout the country and in all sectors of life, this is a time of elaborate carnivals, parades and festive eating.

The words “Mardi Gras” are French for “Fat Tuesday.” In New Orleans, this legal holiday always occurs 47 days before Easter and always on a Tuesday between February and March. The gallant festivities culminate the day before Ash Wednesday.

The holiday is typically celebrated by overindulging in fatty foods, typically creole or Cajun type, and with people wearing decorative masks and costumes, usually in purple, green and gold, which are the official colors of Mardi Gras.

Where we are there are no big-time parades or carnivals taking place. A few restaurants do have some Mardi Gras type events scheduled. Nothing like New Orleans, but still a reason to get out and about.

If you would rather cook a few Mardi Gras dishes at home, a lot of Cajun cooking is based around seafood and whatever you have on hand. So if you need to mix and match in Cajun recipes, that’s the way a lot of these recipes got their start.

To really get in the spirit, make a traditional New Orleans drink, a Hurricane. To be official, this drink should be made in a hurricane glass, which is a lantern-shaped glass. If you don’t have one, use any tall, slender glass.

So take a break from our cold winter and celebrate New Orleans style.

Happy Eating!

(Note: In the Pumpkin Honey Bread recipe that was published Jan. 21, a production error in the printed Lake Country Echo cut off the amount of honey needed in the recipe. The recipe calls for one cup of honey.)