Where Y’Eat: The Food That Gets New Orleans to the Mardi Gras Finish Line

Feb 28, 2019

The sound of the drum line marching closer isn’t the only rumbling you hear during Carnival in New Orleans. Getting to Fat Tuesday is hungry work. You need to eat.

Sure, some designated vendors stake out the parade routes, selling funnel cake and meat on a stick. But that’s a narrow sideline to what keeps Mardi Gras fed.

This most-homegrown New Orleans holiday combines family custom, opportune street eats and the logistics of hosting a crowd or packing food for parade routes.

It doesn’t always look like those styled photo shoots of New Orleans classics that circulate this time of year. But food that reflects how a city parties together is as real as it gets.

That’s why my all-star roster of essential Mardi Gras eats starts with the humble, heroic sandwich platter – the mini muffulettas, those squishy little triangle finger sandwiches.

They’re utilitarian, ubiquitous and indispensable for keeping people fed when no one wants to sit down for a proper meal.
 
Carnival time is also open season for fried chicken, particularly the type I call party chicken. This is inexpensive, big-batch, take-out chicken, enough to share.

Often, the least predictable food of Mardi Gras is the most memorable. This is freelance food, the true cooking of the streets.

You find examples in front yards, schoolyards and sometimes on the move. Sometimes this is all sanctioned and advertised. Sometimes it’s not. During Carnival, I just follow my nose

At homes or out on the streets, there are the one-pot Louisiana wonders of red beans , jambalaya and gumbo, and also the last call for king cake, to devour now or wait til Carnival 2020.

And finally, I contend that a bloody Mary counts as food. At the very least, it should qualify as Mardi Gras nutrition.

If a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, a double shot of vodka helps ensure some variety in the vegetables that go down the hatch too.