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Where Y’Eat: At Mardi Gras, Mini Sandwiches Keep the Big Party Moving

Muffuletta Fest
Mini muffulettas are a familiar staple at Mardi Gras parties

Mardi Gras is a celebration in motion. Today, I’m giving a shout out to some unsung heroes who help keep the wheels turning.

To make it through the long-haul of Carnival you need to eat. So often, what gets the job done is the most humble fare, stuff from the grocery stores, delis and specialty caterers of New Orleans, businesses that work at fever pitch once the parade season reaches prime time.

All across town, they’re assembling mountains of mini muffulettas, sliced-up, party-style po-boys and, perhaps most of all, platters of finger sandwiches, those squishy triangles filled with basic cold cuts.

King cake gets a lot of attention during Mardi Gras. This kind of party food is the opposite. There’s no purple, green and gold symbolism, no extravagant flourish, no Instagram bait or a chef’s creative twist. It’s utilitarian, it’s ubiquitous and it’s hard imagine Mardi Gras going smoothly without it.

People are partying, and drinking, and the finger sandwich fits the moment like a Mardi Gras monarch’s kid gloves.

Think about it. On any so-called normal Carnival day you move from the party to parade. You lug supplies from distant parking spots. You’re out in the streets. This is no time for knife-and-fork fare. But the same person who won't stop for a full meal will readily put away a stack of tiny turkey sandwiches on wheat or a handful of mini muffs. It’s the pacing, and the size. The fact that they’re mini is huge.

These platters turn up at parade routes, house parties, krewe balls and even parade floats.

Making Carnival work takes many hands. As someone who’s been saved by these little sandwiches before, I’m grateful for the hands that make our Mardi Gras meals happen. Now who's ready to start this party with a bloody Mary and some mini muffuletta?

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.