Mardi Gras is fast approaching, so we’ve decided to dive in and take a look at this world-renowned holiday. Not just the history though - we’re an International Market, so of course we have to talk about foods, drinks and desserts that have a storied history in Mardi Gras celebrations. Jungle Jim’s has everything you need to have your own traditional Mardi Gras celebration, so let’s get right to it.
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years ago to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility. As time went on and Christianity arrived in Rome, church leaders decided to integrate the celebration as a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. People who participate in Lent will use this time to binge on all kinds of food and drink in preparation for the fast ahead. This is also why you may hear Mardi Gras associated with the term “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras actually means Fat Tuesday in French.
When you think about Mardi Gras in the United States, the first place that comes to mind is New Orleans. Although New Orleans is the epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations here in the US, there are many cities around the country with French and Catholic traditions that celebrate the holiday. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the US in 1699 when French explorers Iberville and Bienville discovered Louisiana and made their way to where New Orleans sits today. The first parade occurred in 1837 and the tradition has continued to this day.
Did you know: Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
Outside the United States, Mardi Gras has a deep history and is celebrated in many countries including Belgium, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and more. Each country has their own traditions, but they are all based around feasting before Lent.
What’s This About “Feasting?”
It wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras celebration without delicious food. Each country that celebrates Mardi Gras has their own traditional food that is a part of their celebration. Here’s a selection of what you can expect from a few of them:
United States - Staples include gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, po-boys, red beans and rice, and muffulettas.
Italy - What would the Italians feast on other than pasta such as gnocchi, gasagna, tortelli, and a lot of meat! They stick to their favorites.
Brazil - Brazilians love their spicy foods such as feijoada, a platter of sliced meats with rice, beans, salad, peppers, and orange slices.
Argentina - Argentians take Lent a little more seriously so most people who practice it will begin their meatless diet before the carnival begins. Their staples for Mardi Gras include corn, seafood, stews, and fish sandwiches.
Germany - The Germans chow down on pretzels, bratwurst and other sausages.
Cyprus -This small island off of the coast of Greece treats themselves for two weeks of lamb, pork, and chicken. Their speciality is meat kebabs and stews.
And What About Dessert?
There’s a huge variety of tasty treats associated with Mardi Gras. We’ll be back with another blog post with our bakery that will feature some delectable Mardi Gras treats. Stay tuned here on Adventures at the Jungle!