Happy Mardi Gras! And it’s certainly gotten off to a happy start – in honour of the date, my team gathered this morning to enjoy a communal breakfast of light, sweet chouquettesand fresh brioche, one dotted with raisins, the other with chocolate chips and both still deliciously warm from the boulangerie.
Mardi Gras (translating literally to “fat Tuesday”) is traditionally a day on which one consumes rich, fatty, or otherwise indulgent food for the last time before embarking on 40 days of abstinence for le Carême (Lent), in the run-up to Pâques (Easter). This mirrors very closely the tradition in the UK: at home, we recognize Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and, as the latter name suggests, we make and eat pancakes galore on this day, theoretically to use up all the ‘indulgent’ ingredients (butter, sugar etc.), also in preparation for Lent. Though it invariably involves a mad dash to the supermarket on the Monday (or Tuesday) night, and a desperate hunt for an intact box of eggs and one of the last remaining bottles of maple syrup or lemon juice.
I should also note that there is a crucial difference between Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras: the the latter is celebrated with huge, colorful carnivals featuring extravagant costumes and (in my opinion, quite terrifying) masks. The former is most certainly not.
Unfortunately, forgetting all about this particular tradition, I missed this year’s big carnival in Paris; I’ll be sure to look out for it next year. I won’t be missing out on pancakes though! I’ve moved my yoga class from today to Thursday this week (this is important) and tonight, the house apartment special will be franglais ‘fusion’ pancakes: a good, smelly French cheese (I’m thinking gruyere or comté) with thick-cut ham for the plat principal, followed by sweet pancakes smothered in the speculoos spread that is so popular (and therefore delightfully easy to come by) in France. Or perhaps some caramel beurre salé (equally popular/accessible here). Or, y’know, maybe both.
I wouldn’t want my countrymen to think I had abandoned my heritage, after all.