Mardi Gras, that is.  Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, beginning of the Lenten season.  Carnavale, Carnival, Carnaval, Karneval, Faschtnact/Fasching…whatever your ethnic background, if there’s a shot of Catholic in there anywhere (or even if there’s no Catholicism but a lot of fun-lovers), you may be acquainted with Mardi Gras, one way or another.

Some folk—like the ones in Mobile, Alabama– stretch a point and take the “carnival season” from November (society balls and gatherings  through Thanksgiving) through New Year’s Eve then parades and balls scattered across January and February .  Somehow, my invitation to those got lost in the mail.  New Orleans  takes this all seriously too; parades start on or around February 15.  Others, depending on the importance of the tourist trade, will run “the season” from Epiphany (Twelfth Night/January 6) to Ash Wednesday.     Party on!

Purple, green, gold and white are, somehow, the prevailing colors for this whole affair; the famous King Cake even is baked in these colors.  A purple cake is not high on my list of preferred comestibles. Besides that,  the King Cake is also associated with Epiphany(three kings and all that) and it just gets kind of confusing.  Never been  big on beads either.  Fantastical headdresses, enhanced eyelashes, glitter make-up, that’s me…only at family gatherings, not in street parades.

Some places are a little more reserved.  It’s supposed to be about removing from the house all of the meat, sugar, fat, egg, and such which will be forbidden during the penitential weeks of Lent.  So…cook up a storm and eat until you nearly burst.  Make pierogis…or pancakes….

In places where Fat Tuesday is known as Shrove Tuesday ( and the week before is called Shrovetide)the preferred method of disposing of the to-be-forbidden supplies is to make pancakes—egg, flour,  sugar, butter/oil—perfect.  A couple of English villages used to have races where the local housewives made pancakes then ran with their skillets, flipping the hotcakes as they went.  Finding maple syrup to accompany them could be tough this year in Ohio, since the  sap season is close to a month behind because of the weather wildness.

The Poles, now, have chosen to shrive( to free from guilt; to administer the sacrament of reconciliation) their souls and cleanse their homes of the temptations to partakein the sin of gluttony during Lent by—sort of—indulging BEFORE Lent in a special eggy-sweet, jelly-filled doughnut known as the paczki (easy for YOU to say).Pronounced, more-or-less,  “poonch- key”, they’re usually glazed or  topped with powdered sugar and certainly give wickedness and indulgence a great send-off as Lent comes in.  My personal favorite, if I indulged in such stuff, is raspberry, with apricot a close second.  One culinary secret about the paczki that I uncovered is that there is, in traditional formulations of the dough, alcohol, which prevents absorption of oil as  the goodies are being fried.  See!  Health food!

These areNot to be confused with the fastlagsbulle(Sweden) or the laskiaispulla (Finland)made with cardamom, almond paste, jam and whipped cream.  Not the same at all.

And none of them are closely related to the Girl Scout cookies being hawked throughout the land about now.  The gals out in California have discovered a marketing ploy that is breaking new ground.  Marijuana having just recently been made commercially available in the Golden State, some enterprising young ladies have set up their tables of Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Savannahs and such right outside the pot shops to take advantage of the lines of customers and possible rampant cases of “the munchies” that might be in the neighborhood.  Record sales in some locations.  Who knew?

Certainly not the folks at Miss Julie’s Kitchen who were peddling their wares at the recent Home and Garden Show in downtown Akron, at the John S. Knight Center.  Miss Julie is into FRESH LOCAL ORGANIC stuff.  The closest she might get to the pot shop product is the Hempattywich in her lunch menu( Spicy Black Bean Burgers –not even close).  These are SERIOUS whole grain people.  On the information hand-out, it said, “The whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead”.  The Grand Slam Energy Bar has oats, puffed spelt(Triticum spelta), Ohio maple syrup, local raw honey, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, dates, raisins, raw cacao nibs, organic peanut butter, vanilla and sea salt.  Tastes pretty good too.  Take THAT, Doritos!

I also got to watch the VitaMix man do his demos.  It’s an amazing machine and will juice anything, chop anything, puree anything; you can even cook in it!  The sample of chicken soup was pretty tasty and the sorbet was smooth and tangy.  Quite a product, but it’s so big!  I’d have to put an addition on the kitchen to find room for one.  Bad enough that my storage space is so helter-skelter (Not the space itself but my utilization of it), adding a VitaMix would put me over the edge.

Lent begins.