My commentary is usually filtered through nostalgia—in this case, my fond memories of Mardi Gras. Two words sum that up: McKenzie’s and Doubloons.
Mardi Gras was fun, easy, laissez-faire, with no tattletales, no politics, no bead safe-spaces, and no King Cake scalping—yes, this is really a thing in 2018.
Why can’t we just enjoy the greatest free show on earth without government intervention, irate commentary, division, and scary cakes?
City government confiscated many toddlers’ personalized Mardi Gras ladders this year. Not all, only ones on select stretches of certain streets. This is quite the controversy, with debates raging across social media platforms about who was selfish, who wasn’t, neighbors calling the police, who broke the law, who didn’t, et al.
My take is based on thoughtfulness. The City should have posted 24-hour notices on the ‘offending’ ladders so that parents could remove them before they were seized. After decades of not enforcing the rules, it wasn’t very neighborly or appropriate Southern behavior to punish children for the transgressions of over-eager parents. Be nice to each other, Y’all, it’s the Big Easy, not Stepford, CT. Same result, different tact.
Another Twitter storm erupted earlier this week when a New York Times’ travel writer tweeted the dangers of King Cake baby breaking into “shards in [her] mouth.” Journalist Jada Yuan visited NOLA on the first stop of a #52places in one-year travel writing quest. After investigating the city, Yuan also informatively tweeted that locals don’t say goodbye in New Orleans; we instead say, “be safe.” Why? Because New Orleanians don’t walk the streets after dark. I’ll just publish the tweets and leave you to talk among yourselves. However, I believe that Chef Mary Sonnier, baker and slicer of 10,000 King Cakes, nailed the “shard” comment.
King Cake “shard” dangers aside, we also have the Duong Phong scalping controversy. First, let’s state that Duong Phong’s King Cakes are worth buying at an inflated price, but who would have ever thought it would happen?
After being voted best King Cake by esteemed food writer Judy Walker, the limited supply of cakes which initially sold at $13 were being resold for $60 on the (King Cake) Black Market. (I’m imaging my mother in a trench coat and sunglasses exchanging $20 bills in a dark alley, scalloped-edged King Cakes tossed into the back seat, and brakes squealing into the night).
To manage the craziness, Duong Phong has suspended online orders and third-party retailers. You may also no longer buy their purple, green, and gold delicacy at Pizza Nola. Fans of the culinary delight must now travel to NOLA East, wait in line (go early, worth it), and are limited to two-cakes per person. King Cake rationing is in effect, Y’all.
In another Mardi Gras controversy, a few days ago, Muses banned nostalgic Lee Circle throws. We might perhaps call this one selective virtue-signaling. In a city that throws blinking genital beads, plastic boobs, jello-shots, and beer-soaked, wet-your-whistle lace thongs (whistle attached), it’s bordering on the ridiculous. The result is that we now have a Krewe that participates in throw censorship.
Nostalgia Corner: My first memories of Mardi Gras are of sitting on my father’s shoulders at Lee Circle during Bacchus. Lee Circle has always been synonymous with Mardi Gras parades. My father has been dead for decades. I want a pair of those beads: my history, NOLA’s history. Moving on.
Note to transplants:
Follow the “when in Rome” rule.
If you see two garbage cans or traffic cones connected by a rope, or tape blocking an off-street parking space in front of a residence, park somewhere else. Don’t call the police. Don’t move the cans. It’s tradition, and it’s probably for an elderly relative or the homeowner who ran to the grocery for ice. It’s not by the book, but it’s considerate, and it’s how we do Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Warning: the person is likely a grandmother, she has a squad, and your tires are about to lose air pressure.
“Oh, all because it’s Carnival Ti-i-ime
Whoa, it’s Carnival Time
Oh well, it’s Carnival Time
And everybody’s havin’ fun … ”
Kristine Froeba is a fourth generation Uptown girl whose varied background includes food and travel writing, celebrity ghost writing, public relations, social media management, fundraising, preservationist, reluctant tabloid hack, and litigation specialist. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, historic renovation zealot, and full time dabbler.