Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mardi Gras is Just Over a Month Away

Time sure flies. We are just barely past all the winter holidays and now we will be into Mardi Gras time in barely over a month. Whether you celebrate Mardi Gras, or Lent or Easter at all, it is difficult to miss all the hullabaloo. For a time, my husband and I lived in Louisiana, and there of course, Mardi Gras is celebrated. I mean really celebrated.

The King Cakes and the Green, Purple and Gold decorations are everywhere. Masks and beads are found in the most unlikely places. At least to an outsider. We never took the time to go down to New Orleans and celebrate. We are just not that type of party animals. On the other hand, I loved all the diversity of the masks. In the time there, I collected quite a few.
My collection of masks
This year I am planning to make a King Cake for the first time. I have some ideas for the way I want to make a recipe. I'll get back to it here in the blog once I have tried it out. King Cakes vary all over Louisiana. The only thing that is the same is that they are made from a rich yeast dough and baked in a ring shape. Some are made with dried fruits and nuts incorporated in the dough and baked, some are made similarly to the Slovak Rolls or Kolach Rolls with a filling in the rolled up dough. Some fillings are fruits and nuts and some are of almond filling. The King Cake tradition has a little plastic baby pushed down into the cake just out of the oven. With icing and the green, gold and purple sugars over top, the hole is not visible. Whoever gets the slice with the baby in it is required to make the King Cake the following year.

When I was growing up, my Mom would celebrate the Wednesday before Lent as "Doughnut Day."  In the same spirit as Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday", Doughnut Day was a little celebration of the bounty of life, prior to the fasting and sobriety of Lent. It was generally the one time in the year that my Slovakian Mom actually made doughnuts; a wonderful thing for a child to anticipate. I tried to carry that little tradition into my children's lives also, and made doughnuts for them, though I lived in Guatemala at the time. It is interesting to think of the way traditions are carried through lives.

King Cake slice
To make doughnuts, Mom used a yeast dough, possibly her mother's bread dough, which was a rich butter and egg recipe, cut out the doughnuts and deep fried them. In reality I cannot even recall how she finished them off, but probably either glazed or sugar and cinnamon coated. That is the way I made them for my children, so I believe it was because that is what I recalled.

I have been having a round-robin type of email discussion with my sisters lately, trying to see who recalls what about the different holiday traditions in our family. It is funny how one will recall something with perfect clarity, and another has no recollection at all. Between us all, there were quite a few things that stood out. The traditions from my Dad's side of the family seem clearer to me. Whatever food traditions your family hold, I hope you carry them on through life and pass them down. They are so enjoyable to share.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.