Mardi Gras and Lent
By Steph Nordstrom
It is so easy
to get caught up in the wild parties and debauchery of Mardi
Gras, that we forget about the Lenten tradition that follows.
How many of us know the history of Mardi Gras? How and when it
was started? I certainly didn’t. So, off to the interwebz I
is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last
night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of
the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
The origins of
Mardi Gras can be traced as far back as
passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries
to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the traditional
revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her
On March 2,
1699, French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de
Bienville arrived at a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of
New Orleans, and named it "Pointe
du Mardi Gras" when his men realized it was the eve of
the festive holiday. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis
de la Mobile celebrated America's very first Mardi Gras.
By the late
1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with
carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. Dazzling
gaslight torches, or "flambeaux,"
lit the way for the ‘krewe's' members and added to the
festivity. Krewes are the people who put parades and activities
together during Mardi Gras.
of throwing beads and other trinkets, known as ‘throws,’ during
Mardi Gras parades was established in 1870 by Mardi Gras krewe
the Twelfth Night Revelers.
purple, green and gold you see during Mardi Gras? Yep, that has
meaning too! Purple is for justice, gold is for power and green
is for faith. The Grand Duke of Russia chose these in 1857.
Mardi Gras parties have gotten bigger and better with much
decadence ensuing. But even in New Orleans the party must end
and tradition must follow. Mardi Gras parties end promptly at
midnight and revelers are shuffled off the streets when Ash
Mardi Gras is
a long-standing tradition of the Catholic Church and it marks
the last day of ordinary time before the start of Lent, a time
of fasting and repentance.
Christianity spread throughout Europe during the first
millennium, different cultures celebrated the last day before
Lent in their own ways, adapting the practices to suit their
cultures. In France, the holiday became particularly popular as
people feasted on foods that would be given up during the forty
days of Lent. Meats, eggs, and milk were finished off in one
So, now you
and I both know a little bit more about the history of Mardi
Gras. But here’s the real question. Why in the world is Mardi
Gras on a different date each year…back to interwebz!
In order to
calculate the date for Mardi Gras, we must first figure out when
Easter is. Easter will always fall on the first Sunday following
the full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox. Got
that? So this year, the vernal equinox is March 20th.
After March’s full moon. Therefore Easter will fall Sunday,
April 20th after April’s full moon on the 15th.
With me so far? Now that we have Easter, we now count back 47
days. That’s 40 days and 40 nights, not counting Sundays. You
have officially found Ash Wednesday. Of course we know, Mardi
Gras – or Fat Tuesday – is the day before Ash Wednesday! Now, go
ahead and figure out when Mardi Gras will be next year…I’ll
When I was
growing up Friday nights during Lent with my grandparents meant
one thing. Cheese pizza. See, I’m not much of a fish eater, so
my Lenten options were pretty limited. Older now, with a
somewhat expanded palate, I have found that while I’m still not
a fan of finfish (say that 3 times fast!) I do like seafood –
shrimp, crab, lobster etc. so my Lenten meal options are a bit
more diverse. Jimmy Webb told me that pretty much all he ate on
Fridays during Lent was fish sticks. So here we are, two grown
adults with nothing better to eat during lent than pizza and
fish sticks? That just won’t stand. So we have a lot of great
Lenten recipes throughout this issue. Our intern Rita is sharing
one of her favorite ‘Lent friendly’ recipes. Francis Daniele
from Cloud 9 has a sweet treat for you along with a Lenten
seafood spectacular, and Tom Springman from the Country Store in
Pennsdale has a couple of Mardi Gras/Creole recipes that will
help you celebrate Fat Tuesday like a true southerner.
Oh! I almost
I always had a
feeling this time would come. I wasn’t sure of the
circumstances, but I knew it was just a matter of time. I’m
going to jail. Prison. The big house. The clink. At least my
first foray into time behind bars is for a good cause.
On March 19th
I am participating in the MDA Lock-Up. This event, hosted at the
Cellblock (How apropos!) is to raise money for the Muscular
Dystrophy Association in their fight to find a cure for MD and
other muscle diseases.
As it turns
out, my Aunt Judy has had some bail money set aside for me for
ages (I guess she always had a feeling about me), but is a
little short of my goal, so I am asking my wonderful Webb
Weekly family for help. I have set a goal to raise $3,000
before I head to the slammer. Can you help me reach my goal?
Now I know
that you are thinking… "Hey Steph, if I send you bail money,
what exactly does it go towards?" Well, let me tell you.
• $30 funds
one flu shot.
• $74 funds
one minute of research.
• $100 pays
for one support group session.
• $800 sends
one child to MDA Summer Camp.
• $1,480 funds
20 minutes of research.
If we can hit
my $3,000 goal, together we can fund a whole cabin at MDA Summer
If you want to
help the MDA, and get me out of jail please send your donations
280 Kane St.,
Williamsport, PA 17702
checks payable to MDA. There are also links on our Facebook page
to make secure online donations. Just head over to fb.com/webbweekly.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to ‘Like’ us while you are there! Or
you can go to
dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and other
neuromuscular diseases. At the same time, the Association
provides health care and support services for people living with
these diseases — right here in our community. Together we can
Make a Muscle and Make a Difference.
CioppinoCourtesy of Francis Daniele
Cioppino was a favorite of west
coast seafarers in the early 1900s. Taking the seafood they had
left after the day’s catch to make themselves a meal.
• Olive oil
• 1/4 cup chopped celery
• 1/4 cup chopped onion
• Red pepper
• 1/2 cup white wine
• 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
• Pasta or rice of your choice
Heat butter and oil in a pan. When
hot, add celery, onion, salt, pepper and red pepper to taste.
Add mussels and let cook for a couple of minutes. Add clams next
and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Add garlic then the
scallops. After a minute or two add the shrimp, allow to cook
and then add the calamari. When all of the seafood is cooked,
add ½ cup of white wine to pan and toss with seafood, add
tomatoes and parsley. Let cook for another minute or two and
then pour over the pasta or rice of your choice.
Dressed Mini Oyster Po'boys
To make these mini oyster po'boy
sandwiches, serve the Creole fried oysters on French bread rolls
and top with coleslaw. To save time, purchase premade coleslaw.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Cook time: 12 Minutes
Prep time: 30 Minutes
• 1 1/4 cups self-rising cornmeal
• 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
• 2 (8-ounce) containers fresh Select
• Peanut or vegetable oil
• 1 cup mayonnaise, divided
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 (10-ounce) package shredded
• 2 tablespoons ketchup
• 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
• 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
• 3/4 teaspoon paprika
• 12 French bread rolls, split and
• Garnish: lemon wedges
Combine cornmeal and 2 tablespoons
Creole seasoning. Dredge oysters in cornmeal mixture.
Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a
Dutch oven; heat to 375°.
Fry oysters, in 3 batches, 3 to 4
minutes or until golden. Drain oysters on paper towels.
Stir together 1/2 cup mayonnaise,
vinegar, and mustard. Stir in cabbage; set slaw aside.
Stir together remaining 1/2 cup
mayonnaise, ketchup, and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl.
Spread cut sides of French bread rolls
with ketchup mixture; place oysters and slaw evenly on bottom
halves of each roll. Cover with tops. Serve po'boys immediately.
Garnish, if desired.
Traditional King Cake
This traditional Mardi Gras dessert
makes two king cakes each topped with a creamy glaze and festive
gold, purple, and yellow sugar sprinkles.
• 1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry
• 1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour*
• 1/3 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted
sparkling sugar sprinkles
Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium
saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set
aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.
Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm
water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup;
let stand 5 minutes.
Beat sour cream mixture, yeast
mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a
heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to
low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups)
until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured
surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place
(85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in
Punch down dough, and divide in half.
Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup
softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch
border. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle
evenly over butter on each rectangle.
Roll up each dough rectangle,
jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough
roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring
ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and
pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.
Cover and let rise in a warm place
(85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or
until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about
10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes;
sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming
bands. Let cool completely.
Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake:
Prepare each 22- x 12-inch dough rectangle as directed. Omit 1/3
cup softened butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
Increase 1/2 cup sugar to 3/4 cup sugar. Beat 3/4 cup sugar; 2
(8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 1 large egg; and 2
teaspoons vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer
until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough
rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders. Proceed with recipe as
*6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour may
Note: This recipe uses bread flour,
which makes for a light, airy cake. You still get tasty results
with all-purpose flour--the cake will just be denser.
Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach
Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach, or
Minestra di Riso con Lenticchie e Spinaci: Rice is one of the
finest ingredients for a soup, far superior to noodles at
providing body, and works especially well with lentils. The
recipe will serve 4:
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
• 1 cup (200 g) short-grained rice
• 1 cup (200 g) lentils, soaked for 4
• 1 bunch spinach, washed and cut into
• 2 cloves garlic
• An onion
• 1 rib celery
• 1 cup plain tomato sauce
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• Salt and pepper
Rinse the lentils and cook them for 45
minutes in 2 quarts of water with the onion, celery, and asalt
and pepper to taste. Remove the lentils with a slotted spoon,
and strain the broth, discarding the celery. Slice the onion and
sauté it in a pot with the oil and the garlic for 3 minutes,
then add the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Add the
lentils and the spinach, and then the lentil broth. When the
soup comes to a boil add the rice and cook, stirring
occasionally, until it is done, about 15 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings lentil soup with
rice and spinach.