Category Archives: Fun Facts about New Orleans

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Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016 will kickoff, as always, on January 6th. New Orleans and Brazil are well known destinations for those who want to experience one of the greatest parties on earth – Carnival. Although the season varies, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day will always fall on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter in accordance to the liturgical calendar.

To get this party started, those who celebrate will make, bake, or buy a King Cake on January 6th.

Here’s one from last year. Keyword…”one”…I make, buy, and eat them throughout the season!

2015-02-18 19.55.47

And to show how big a deal these traditional cakes are, the King Cake Festival is an annual event to honor these delicious confections. The 3rd annual festival is January 31st. It’s a FREE family friendly event benefiting Ochsner Hospital Pediatric Departments. There’s something for everyone; music, games, food, and lots and lots of King Cakes to sample! A People’s Choice Award is given to the bakery with the most votes for the tastiest cake of the season.

Past winners included:

2015 Maurice French Pastries

2014 Haydel’s Bakery

Very excited that I will be there in Champions Square this year as a vendor with The King Cake Baby. Click here for more details and updates on this event.

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There will be lots of celebrations on January 6th too.  Some will attend the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade. Joan of Arc is a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. January 6th is her birthday.

Some will attend the ball of The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival organization that had their first ball on January 6, 1870, a tradition that continues today. The female from their court who finds the bean- la fève – in the wooden King Cake is crowned Queen – La Reine.

The Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows will parade on the St. Charles Streetcar line the night of January 6th. That krewe is known as being the “dessert of Carnival”, a satirical and fun group. One of their mottos is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”

Click here to read my post from last year about the history of Louisiana Creole Carnival celebrations –    Le Petit Noël (Twelfth Night or Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany or Kings’ Day) and Mardi Gras.

And you don’t have to be part of a high society, live in New Orleans or where King Cakes are sold to celebrate the kick off of Mardi Gras. You can make a king cake in your very own kitchen. Watch Alex the French Guy make a French version –La Galette des Rois, he’s adorable and funny. CookingAndCrafting demonstrates how to make a New Orleans King Cake from scratch. The recipe I put in The King Cake Baby is a very easy one because it’s made from frozen dough. I used it with a handful of adults and a cafeteria full of kids to make 50 King Cakes in a few hours that we sent to our troops in the Wounded Warriors Project at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

If you don’t have a plastic baby, use a bean or a coin (wrap the coin in foil for hygienic reasons) to hide. Just remember, before you take a bite, be sure to check for the baby or whatever is hidden inside!

Bon appétit!

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All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day or the Feast of All Saints is celebrated every November 1st. Today is the day the Catholic Church reminds us how we’re supposed to live, as saints did. Catholics love their saints and this is a special day to honor them. A saint, by definition, is a person recognized after death as a soul who’s made it to heaven because they’ve lived a holy life on earth. They are more than faithful, but rather exceptional. They were benevolent role models, teachers, miracle workers, and intercessors, who chose to live a consecrated life taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There’s no shortage of souls who became saints in accordance to church doctrine. In fact, there’s probably a “patron saint” to pray to for guidance or even favors for anything you need or any area in your life you’d like to improve. Each known for their special interests and or talents. The belief is, since they’re already in heaven, they’ve got your back.

Today, New Orleans families traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the tombs of our loved ones in preparation for tomorrow, All Souls’ Day. Growing up, caring for your dead was family event.

Below is a public domain photo from 1885, Harper’s Weekly “Decorating the Tombs”.

All_Saints_Day_in_New_Orleans_--_Decorating_the_Tombs

All Souls’ Day or the Feast of All Souls is celebrated every November 2nd. I wrote about the difference between these two days last year here. For centuries, New Orleans has had a special relationship with the dead. The idea that the souls of our dead live on allows us to continue to celebrate them in life. They body is gone, the spirit lives on. We want to believe our loved ones made it into heaven. But in case they lead a less than benevolent life and their souls landed in the mid-way point called Purgatory, rather than reach the ultimate destination, today is the day we pray for their mercy. The church encourages relatives on earth to celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. For all intents and purposes it’s an annual request for free ”get out of jail cards” for Catholics.

Although I am not there today, I do visit our family tombs when I am home. For all my family members who are out at cemeteries today, thank you. I plan to return the favor one day.

 

 

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Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos!

Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos!

Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos! Actually Louisianians would have said something like Feliz el 4 de Julio or Heureux le 4 éme Juillet. Thanks Google!

Language aside, the Spanish Colony of Louisiana under the leadership of Bernardo de Gálvez (photo below) joined forces with the British-Americans to fight for their independence against the British. Indigenous Native Louisianans fought alongside those of French, Spanish, African, German, Acadian, and Swiss descent. The rest as they say, is history. Why did Spanish Louisiana help British-America?

md-governor-bernardo-de-galvez  KCB 4th of July

European wars profoundly affected the fledgling French colony. Spain supported the American Revolution because of their losses to Britain during the Seven Year’s War (1756–1763). On the same day France relinquished most of her empire east of the Mississippi to Britain at the end of the Seven Years’ War, she ceded all her possessions west of the Mississippi to Spain, her ally in the conflict. Spain lost all of her North American territories (Spanish Florida) to regain control of Cuba and became the new ruler of the Louisiana Colony. In order to recoup her losses and to protect what was left of her colonies in the Americas, Spain used both international and domestic policies to guard and develop her holdings. Internationally, Spain’s support of the American Revolution helped protect her borders from Britain, while on the domestic front Spain needed to develop a prosperous Louisiana colony.

Allowed to access supplies through the port of Havana in Cuba as well as the port in New Orleans during the revolution, Spanish Louisiana played a crucial role in American Independence.  

You’re welcome America! Just sayin’!


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Say What? New Orleans Street Names

Say What? New Orleans Street Names

Say What? New Orleans street names are hard to pronounce! Yes, indeed.

There are a lot of interesting things about New Orleans. The fact that the languages, food, music, and traditions of the Louisiana Creole culture continued after the Louisiana Purchase and US statehood is unarguably, unique. In my post Say What? New Orleans Speak I introduced readers to some local lingo, popular places with a bit of history, and a pronunciation guide. Today we will take a look at some street names. Yeah-you-right, if you want to sound like local when visiting NOLA, there are a few street names that are particularly difficult to pronounce. Tourists come across all or most of them during a visit.

FQ map

Let’s start with a review. You already know locals pronounce the name of the city as  noo OR-lunz, noo OR-lee-unz, or noo AW-linz. But did you know the city is divided into Parishes and Faubourgs? A Parish is called a County in other US cities. A Faubourg (FAUX-berg) is a holdover from the French Colonial period and refers to the parts outside the city, known today as the “burbs”. The French Quarter which is the oldest neighborhood in the city today, was the original city, so the territory built up outside of that space was considered a “faubourg” or “suburbs’’. For example there’s a Faubourg St. John, a Fauborg Marigny (MAHR-ruh-nee) and the Faubourg Tremé (tray-MAY) made popular in the HBO series Treme. However, in the TV show, the spelling Treme could be pronounced TREAM. When spelled the French way with the diacritic over the second ‘e’, the pronunciation changes.

Here’s the thing, the blending of a handful of old world cultures that settled in Louisiana created a new culture that has over time influenced the pronunciations of old words. So a French word or a Spanish word or a word from one of the original native Louisianans may not be pronounced as you think.

Have some fun and give these pronunciations a try. And if you get stuck, that’s okay, just ask a local, they won’t mind!

  1. Baronne: (buh-ROAN) not (bar-ro-NAY)
  2. Burgundy Street: (bur-GUN-dee) not like the wine, (BURG-gun-dee)
  3. Carondelet: (kah-ron-duh-LET) not (kah-ron-duh-LAY)
  4. Chartres: (CHART-ers) not (char-TRESS)
  5. Conti: (KAWN-tie) not (KAWN-tee)
  6. Decatur: (duh-KAY-ter), not (dee-ca-TURE) or (deck uh-TURE)
  7. Freret: (FER-et) not (FRER-ay), the French way
  8. Iberville: (EYE-ber-ville) not (IB-er-ville)
  9. Tonti: (TAWN-tee) not (TAWN-tie) ignore #5!
  10. Tchoupitoulas: (Chop-a-TOO-luhs) not, well…you can imagine
  11. Toulouse: (TOO-loose) not (Too-LOOSE)
  12. Tulane: (TOO-lane) not (tu-LANE)

After you have it all figured out, plug in New Orleans street names to a car navigation system on your visit if you want to get a good laugh.

And please, strike up a conversation with a local while out and about. When home, the local lingo is what makes it feel like home to me. A typical greeting from an old childhood NAY-bah I may see in da MAW-nin’ could go like this, “Hey dawlin’! Where y’at? How’s yamama’n’em? You bettah come pass by ma house before you leave.”

And that, is music to my ears.

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New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans trivia quizzes are designed as a fun way learn about one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Rich in tradition and culture, New Orleans is known as the festival capital of the United States. The culture, customs, and many traditions celebrated throughout the year started long before US statehood which makes the city genuinely unique.

New Orleans Carville

This first quiz tests your knowledge of Mardi Gras and that includes king cake, baby!

See my other posts about Mardi Gras and king cake and another about how to catch throws at a parade.  Head over to Goodreads to take the New Orleans Trivia multiple choice quiz. For a heads up, the questions are below.

How’s your knowledge of New Orleans culture?

Bonne chance! Good luck!

1. What is the first day king cake is traditionally eaten in New Orleans?

2. What does the New Orleans king cake symbolize?

3. Other than a plastic baby, what else is known to be hidden in king cakes?

4. Mardi Gras is an official holiday in which of these states?

5. Who chose purple, green, and gold as the official colors of Mardi Gras?

6. What do the words Mardi Gras mean in English?

7. What happens when you find the plastic king cake baby inside the cake?

8. What New Orleans Carnival krewe uses a bean and “mock wooden” king cake to choose their queen?

9. At a new Orleans Mardi Gras parade, the following may be caught from floats.

10. Where can you go to sample the best variety of Louisiana king cakes?

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Say what? New Orleans Speak

Say what? New Orleans Speak

Say what? New Orleans Speak – How to Sound Like A Local

The King Cake Baby  picture book is filled with local lingo which includes French vocabulary. Here’s a handy guide if you want to learn more about the language and sound like a local too. Enjoy!

NOLA historical marker

New Orleans: (noo OR-lunz, noo OR-lee-unz, noo AW-linz) a city in the state of Louisiana, former French and Spanish colony.

king cake baby: a small plastic replica of a baby hidden inside a king cake. People want to “get” the baby or find it in their piece of king cake.

king cake: an oval cake decorated in Mardi Gras colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power).

Kings’ Day: celebrated every January 6th, the first day of the carnival season in Louisiana.

Creole (KREE-ohl) spelled Créole in French. Louisiana Creole is a culture and a language created by people in the colony when multiple old world cultures lived together in the new Louisiana territory during the French, then Spanish colonial periods and continued after the American purchase. Today, the culture is practiced and visible all over south Louisiana through statewide celebrations, use of Louisiana French, Louisiana Creole & Louisiana Spanish languages, architecture, food, music, traditions, festivals, and general joie de vivre.

ma chérie- (mah- SHAY-ree) French word, feminine, used in the English root for the word “cherish”. Means my dear or my darling.

French Quarter:  the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans since the founding of the city in 1718. Locals refer to the area as the “Quarter”. The original name is Vieux Carré (VOO cuh-RAY or Vyoo cuh-RAY ) which is French for “old square”.

Mardi Gras: (MAH-dee-graw or MAW-dee-graw) French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season. The length of the Carnival season varies, but always ends the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent on the Liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.

French Quarter cottage: a small, single story creole style home.

mon ami: (mohn a-MEE) French, masculine, means “my friend’’ in English.

praline: (PRAH-leen), a creole candy made with sugar, butter, cream and pecans. A pralinière (prah-leen-YAIR) in French is a woman who sells pralines on the street. Not pronounced “pray-LEEN” in Louisiana.

How you doing dawlin’: (DAW-lyn) a local greeting; example of ”southern drawl” where vowels sounds are prolonged. Omission of the ”r” and final ”g” sounds is also common.

Jackson Square: originally named Place d’ Armes (plahs-DARM) during the French colonial period. The area, renamed Jackson Square after the Battle of New Orleans, showcases  an equestrian statue of US President Andrew Jackson.

Come with me by my house: New Orleans local lingo. Means to stop in, not to literally pass by.

Café du Monde: (kah-FAY DOO-mawnd) famous café located in the French Quarter neighborhood known for making the beignet (BEN-yay), a deep-fried French doughnut or fritter.

Where y’at: (yuh-AT) New Orleans local lingo, a traditional greeting and contraction for “you at’’. Y’at is pronounced with 2 syllables.

C’est la vie: (SAY- la-vee) French expression often used in New Orleans, means “such is life” in English.

Creole Queen Riverboat: an authentic paddlewheel riverboat in New Orleans known for Mississippi River cruises, built to mimic the days of Mark Twain.

Yeah, you right: a statement of agreement. Sometimes spoken as one word – YEAH-you-right.

Bon appétit: (BAW na-PAY-tee) French saying, “good appetite’’, means enjoy your meal in English.

 Next time – New Orleans street names!

 

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National Gumbo Day!

National Gumbo Day!

It’s National Gumbo Day!

And all Louisianans know nothing stirs the emotions like a discussion about food. But we all know the answers to the questions often asked by visitors to New Orleans, “Who makes the best gumbo in the city?” The typical reply is, “My mama.” Or “Where do I go to eat the best gumbo in the city?”  That answer is, “My kitchen.” Because our mamas taught us to make our gumbos.

So what’s all the fuss about? Firstly, Gumbo is the official cuisine of Louisiana. Easy to understand why any origins to the dish would then elevate a group to a special status. However the name of the dish itself is a perfect analogy to the culture of Louisiana, it’s a mixed pot.

The first reference to ”gombeau” in New Orleans was in 1764 discovered by Louisiana colonial historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. It’s a record of testimony written in French and archived in the records of the French Superior Council. Of course this does not mean others who lived in the territory before 1764 were not making the dish, but often the reference to 1802 as the first record of gumbo is incorrect. In 1764 we know where in the world people came from who lived in the colony and who they found living there upon arrival. We know the Choctaw, an indigenous Louisiana people thickened soups using filé, still used today to thicken many gumbos and some believe used the term ‘kombo-lichi’ to refer to such dishes. We know ki ngombo is the Bantu word for okra, another staple used in some gumbos. And today, we know a good gumbo requires a roux, a mixture of flour and a fat like butter, used in classical French cooking as a thickening agent. But these facts still don’t answer the question about the origin of the dish. Maybe that’s a good thing because like all those ingredients put in a gumbo pot, what comes out is something special and unique. Just like me and everyone out there with Louisiana roots.

Happy Sunday Gumbo Day!

gumbo

 

 

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2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners! Congratulations!

Best Traditional King Cake: Bakers Dozen
Best Filled King Cake: Mr. RONNIE’S FAMOUS HOT DONUTS
Best Savory King Cake: Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
Best Non-Traditional King Cake: Ye Olde Bake Shoppe
Best Baby: Thee Heavenly Donut
Best Looking King Cake: Bakers Dozen

People’s Choice:
3rd Place: Maurice French Pastries
2nd Place: Manny Randazzo’s
1st Place Haydel’s Bakery

kc fest haydel winner

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Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale

Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Written by: Lorraine Johnston
Illustrated by: Preston Asevedo
Mascot Books, April 2013, Fiction
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: kindness, courage, community, cultural awareness
 
Brief Synopsis: An alligator at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo gets into colorful trouble when Scottish tourists ignore the sign “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS AT ANY TIME”. A little girl comes to the rescue through the help of local shopkeepers.
 
Opening pages:  “If you’re ever going to visit Audubon Zoo, remember this story, it is quite true. There is an old alligator who sits in his pen. He’s got quite a story, it all started when…”
 
Why I like this book: Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale written by Scottish author Lorraine Johnston weaves the love of her own culture with the culture of New Orleans through her choice of setting and characters. Themes and topics addressed are valuable teaching tools. The alligator learns there are consequences when rules are broken. A little girl shows kindness and courage by her desire and actions to help him solve his problem. And through cooperation with a community chocolate shop, the little girl helps the alligator return to his original self.

 LTG

 

 

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