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Mardi Gras Traditions, Beads and Bare Breasts Optional

This Tuesday is Mardi Gras and New Orleans is in full swing. It’s a time for revelry and abandonment, but for many New Orleanians it is also a time for family. I know that strikes outsiders as odd–since images of Girls Gone Wild gloss the American imagination of Mardi Gras. But there are wonderful traditions in New Orleans during the Carnival season that are based on the importance of community, not coed debauchery. In fact, when I think of Mardi Gras, I think of king cake parties, neighborhood parades and of course the stunning Mardi Gras Indians who dance and sing in tribute to their community’s survival.

And there is a less official tradition held by many fans of Toole all over the world. Over the course of writing Butterfly in the Typewriter, I have spoken to numerous people (so many I have lost count in fact) that read Confederacy as an annual tradition during the Carnival season. What a perfect time to revisit a parade of New Orleans characters in a most hilarious novel.

While I often visit New Orleans, at this point in my life I would much rather read Confederacy than join the masses descending on the Crescent City for Mardi Gras. If I lived in the city I might feel differently. But in the spriti of Mardi Gras I do keep a tradition of making a king cake. The process has become my yearly ritual: the sweet cinnamon dough is rolled out, braided, and formed into a circle. Then after it’s baked frosting is poured over the cake and vibrant colored sugar is sprinkled on top–green, gold and purple. It is outrageously decadent. Such a rich treat is meant to be shared, in that way celebrating the connectedness of various communities, much like the cake: woven and round.

Alas, I can’t send you a slice of my king cake—but I will share with you my favorite recipe, the one I always use, by Chef John Folse. No beads or bare breasts necessary.

And if you don’t have a Mardi Gras party to go to this year, the cake is just as delicious when enjoyed with a cup of chicory coffee while following Toole’s wild krewe on parade in A Confederacy of Dunces.

Chef John Folse’s King Cake can be found here:  If you have a Mardi Gras tradition share it below.

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!–Let the Good Times Roll!

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