By Erica Veal - Events Manager at Red Rooster Harlem
My family is from Mobile, Alabama. In Mobile, Mardi Gras starts two weeks before Ash Wednesday, with parades and that sort of thing. People are out there right now, partying, and celebrating.
What happened years ago, because Mobile, like New Orleans, is very Catholic city. The church thought Mardi Gras was pagan. So they ended it for a while, stopped Mardi Gras, and couldn't have parades any more.
There was a man named Joe Cane, he and several friends dressed up and had their own Mardi Gras parade, and that's how Mardi Gras came back. Now every year, the Sunday before Mardi Gras, there's Joe Cane Day. Women dress up in black, because supposedly he had a lot of wives, so they say they're Joe Cane widows. They sit there with their mint juleps, their bourbon.
That's also the day you start your gumbo. On Joe Cane Day you may make Red Beans and Rice, but you start your gumbo that you're not going to eat until Mardi Gras.
For the gumbo, you start off with your roux, which is the flour and the oil. I like my roux a little dark, so that it has a little bitterness. Then you add your chopped vegetables, what they call your trinity, which is your bell peppers, your onion, and your celery. You add three different types of pepper. the white peppers for burn, the red pepper is for heat, and the black pepper is for spice.
You add in everything from andouille sausage, to chicken, shrimp, whole crab, and sometimes you'll add in some oysters. Then you serve the gumbo over rice.
All you do is eat and drink the whole time. I go home every year, every one goes home for Mardi Gras. You wake up at ten am and you start drinking and you get ready for the parades.
Nothing's really open on Tuesday, except for crawfish places. You get pounds and pounds of crawfish, and you have to suck the head. That's where all the juice and stuff is.
When I was little, you would go to these parades and come home with bags and bags of candy. But the best things to catch aside from beads are moon pies. I can't stand moon pies, but I love to catch them. They're so much fun to catch. Sometimes the people on the floats throw a box of moon pies, and if you catch the box, that's the ultimate prize.
One year they called my mother over to the float and they handed her a whole case of moon pies, which was amazing.
Moon pies have a marshmallow center, almost like a whoopie pie. They come in different flavors, like banana and chocolate, vanilla, and also strawberry.
It's a big reunion, because no matter where you are, if you've left the city, everyone comes home for Mardi Gras.