Friday, February 21, 2014

Recipe Weekend/ Book Review: Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival, by Errol Laborde, Phot. by Mitchel Osborne

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book,  free of charge, from Pelican Press, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it.

We live in Louisiana.

It's Mardi Gras time as well.

So you KNOW what that means!


We have to have a book that discusses KING CAKE!
(well, and lot's more about Mardi Gras, but let's stick with the best thing, right?)

Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival cover

The definitive guide to all things Mardi Gras . . . past and present! From Twelfth Night to Ash Wednesday, New Orleans is transformed. Queens and fools, demons and dragons reign over the Crescent City. This vividly photographed book is a lively, comprehensive history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Fascinating and intimate, this book seamlessly intertwines the past with the present.

Experience the past and present of Mardi Gras in New Orleans as never before. Mardi Gras authority Errol Laborde guides readers through the trappings, tales, treasures, and traditions of Carnival. Historical images and modern photographs show the dazzling displays seen during the magic, ephemeral season. Recipes and reminiscences are included, in true New Orleans style. Come join the greatest party on earth!


Errol is literally THE authority on all things Mardi Gras! When we first moved to NOLA, I remember getting one of his Mardi Gras magazines, just to learn what all was going on (and get the parade routes of course!). Over time, I was entranced with his videos on the history of Mardi Gras that he and Peggy made for the local PBS affliiate, so much so that one year I sent in a healthy contribution to get those videos! So to be there is only one guide to all things Mardi Gras to have now- this new book!

Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival 12 th night revelerers poster sample

I first flipped through the book- amazed at the old posters, photos and tidbits. Then I started reading and was totally amazed at the wealth of information that had been accumulated in this volume! Natives, newcomers and tourists alike, will find something new and amazing in this book! Mardi Gras has a mystique that is hard to put your finger on- it's surrealistic larger than life floats and maskers, to the traditional queens and kings, the allowable mayhem before it all crashes with what is frequently called the largest party on earth.

A few things that were interesting to me-
Twelfth Night was an old tradition that started in 1870, when a group called the Twelfth Night Reverlers decided to have a parade on the first night of carnival season. had actually been stopped in
but was restarted in 2005

- The Mardi Gras Colors- Purple, Gold and Green- actually DO have meaning, but just NOT what tradition has held! Errol did some digging in historical documents and papers and discovered that the Krewe of Comus wanted a flag. The men on the committee followed ancient heraldy rules and decided the colors based on it's rules. Gold was the metal that was chosen,  purple was the first of the 3 colors to be selected, as it was a known color for royalty. That left 4 choices of color- they dropped red and blue, as too many of the flags flying over Louisiana had those colors already (French, Spanish, American, Confederate), leaving them with black and green. All the Saints fans just went "oooooo". Yup, even the football team's colors may have a foundation in the Mardi Gras flag! But the men decided on green, and there you go. Did you know that the purple and green are not supposed to touch? The gold is always supposed to be between them!

-Lundi Gras (the day before Mardi Gras day) did not come into common usage until 1987. (I knew I hadn't heard of it when we first arrived in Louisiana!) when Rex revived the concept to have a mini-festival, complete with fireworks! Zulu soon joined in, (in 1993),with their arrival on the river front, adding to the allure of the day. In fact from 1874 to 1917 the King of Rex arrived on the river to start the final festivities, but it was not known as Lundi Gras, but as Shrove Monday (that was part of the Catholic calendar).

Errol shares the stories of Krewe institutions, newer superkrewes, and neighborhood marching groups, along with personal stories of the larger-than-life individuals who made Mardi Gras into the party it is today. This book gives the reader a great look back into the beginnings of Mardi Gras traditions and how they have changed over the years. For those not in the know- he explains the Mardi Gras balls, the picking of the queens and the pomp leading up to the parades themselves. The one thing not left out is the people. For Mardi Gras would not remain the event it is today, without the faithful coming out every year to participate on both sides of the neutral ground (throwing and catching beads)! Characters are what makes Mardi Gras the party it is, and they are included in this book!

Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival float rider sample

The colorful photographs by Mitchel really bring Mardi Gras to life, and show off all it's zaniness and pagentry. The book ends with a chapter on NOLA food, and the people behind the recipes- many of our favorites are there, including Poppy Tooker

If your heart 'will never cease to love' all things Mardi Gras, then this book is a requirement for your bookshelf!

Now how about one of those recipes from Poppy?

Deviled Eggs for Mardi Gras Morning

6 hard boiled eggs
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp creole mustard
1 tbsp finely diced ham
1 green onion, finely minced
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

1.Cut eggs in half cross wise, so they will be easier for putting into the egg carton for carrying to the parade route!
2. Remove yolks and smash together with softened butter and Creole Mustard. Mix in ham and green onion, then season to taste.
3. Put filling into a pastry bag, or zip-loc bag (seal and cut off one tip, to make your own pastry bag), and fill egg halves and place into carton.
4. garnish with a sprinkle of Paprika, chill until ready to take. Allow to come to room temp before serving. Makes 12. 

About the Authors/ Photographer: 

Errol Laborde, the editor of New Orleans Magazine, has won more than twenty-five New Orleans Press Club Awards for outstanding journalism since 1972. A producer and panelist on public television’s Informed Sources, an award-winning program that explores local politics, Laborde is also the founding president and a current board member of the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Laborde’s previously works include I Never Danced With an Eggplant (On a Streetcar Before): Chronicles of Life and Adventures in New Orleans, published by Pelican. He lives in New Orleans.

Mitchel Osborne is a New Orleans native and nationally renowned photographer. His work has taken him to such varied places as the Louisiana swamps, the Pacific Northwest, and the Australian outback. Osborne’s interest in Mardi Gras developed early in life, and he has contributed to three books and a series of calendars on the subject. He resides near the Puget Sound in Washington.

Peggy Scott Laborde is the producer and host of public television’s Steppin’ Out, which airs in New Orleans. Her professional accomplishments and efforts in conserving the arts and history of New Orleans have earned her numerous awards and praise. Laborde is also the author of Pelican’s Canal Street: New Orleans’ Great Wide Way, Christmas in New Orleans, and Lost Restaurants of New Orleans. She lives in New Orleans.


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