Thursday, February 19, 2009

Foodie Finds and Childhood Trauma.

I awoke this morning to the dewy scent of fresh clovers and the crisp, yet mild temperatures reminiscent of spring weather, even though the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter. He obviously did not factor in Louisiana when forming his hypothesis. It’s 63 as I type this, and barely 10:30, a.m. Tomorrow’s high is expected to be in the mid-to-upper 70’s. Clearly we’ve been left out.

Never the matter though, I’d take this morning’s weather over being included in the 6-week prophecy of doom any day. I’ve never been a fan of winter, and am quite certain I must have been a bear in a past life because once the cold blows in, the only place I want to be is in bed, under mounds of fluffy covers, asleep. I’m pretty sure I could sleep through the entire winter season and not be phased in the least—the only thing I’d feel left out on would be soup, hot chocolate, and possibly Christmas cookies. I could always turn the air conditioning down really low once I emerge, and make up for lost time.

So it’s spring, or at least it seems. The weather here is so fickle, next week we will most likely be bundled up in our overcoats and strangling ourselves with unnecessary scarves. Where was I going with this???

Oh yes. Back to the point. The clovers.

Clovers anywhere else in the country I assume call to mind the Irish, St. Patrick’s Day, maybe a half-hearted attempt at 4-H as a child. In New Orleans, the clovers always show up just in time for the festivities of Carnival Season. Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Parade Time as I called it during childhood, and would exclaim as soon as I saw the dark green little clubs peeking out from the cold, dead grass of winter.

This morning’s grassy perfume and mild sunshine brought to mind all those things I associate with Mardi Gras...high school marching bands, fight songs and alma maters, marching groups dressed in sequined leotards, vendors selling cheap toys and cotton candy from hi-jacked shopping carts, mardi gras balls, gilded floats filled with masked riders and enough beads to circle the globe, but not enough to last through a five mile route, cheap beer, picnics on medians, the clinking sound of doubloons hitting the concrete, Mc Gruff, Moon Pies, and King Cake.

Ah, king cake. Something I never thought I’d write about, more less recommend. If you know me at all, you know that king cake has been the bane of my birthday existence since childhood. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good king cake, it’s that I never enjoyed king cake as a birthday cake, and since my birthday falls so close to, or occasionally actually on, Mardi Gras, it has reared its ugly unwelcomed head too many times at my birthday parties. All I ever wanted was a chocolate cake with white icing and a few candles. What I got was a giant cinnamon roll, covered with purple, green, and gold sugar, doused with sticky white icing, and then topped with multicolored non-pareils, and one candle suggesting my age. My family insisted on pointing out (in effort to cheer me up and make peace with this non-birthday cake) the fact “everyone is celebrating your birthday” and has even gone so far as to tell me it was “queen’s cake, just for me”. I’ve never been one to buy into much bullshit, and well that just reeks of it. I mostly ate my king cake and went about my business bitterly, always hoping next year Mardi Gras would come earlier and I would get the cake I truly wanted. I even went so far as to waste my candle wish, wishing for a real birthday cake one year.

“Next year I want a real birthday cake…phew”

The following year, my birthday landed on Mardi Gras. I was not pleased. Irony is like karma’s clever sister, and it too is a bitch.

In my thirty years, it has worked in my favor exactly 4 times. Four times out of thirty. Some would say I’m lucky to get king cake as birthday cake. I suspect these are the same people who think I’m lucky to be short because it’s easier to find pants (which it is not).

I decided this year would be the year I make peace with the cake that brings so many excitement and joy every Carnival season and stop giving it the stink-eye. It’s not its fault I rarely got a normal birthday cake. It’s not my fault my birthday is so stupidly placed on the calendar. We’ve been unfairly pitted against each other for years. It’s time to make amends. It’s also time though, for me to push the king cake off on you, as my birthday is rapidly approaching (this year will be 5, 5 times ah-ah -ah)but, won’t be here in time for king cake. Damn, and I was so ready to make progress! ;-)

So… you have my birthday king cake from last year now and catch up, and I will have the 5th normal birthday cake I’ve had in, count them, 31 years on March 3.

This week’s Foodie Find awaits you here. This is the original, the one and only, pain (pun intended) of my existence. It’s also, and I say this begrudgingly, the best one in town. Moist, spicy, sweet, with a slight crunch from all the colored sugar and non-pareils. Get it now, before it’s gone.

Happy Mardi Gras :)


*pain is the French word for bread and is actually pronounced pahn or pan. For the sake of this essay, and my clever sentence…I’m using the meaning of the French (bread), with the pronunciation of the American (payn). Does that make it Franco-American? I always did like Spaghettio’s.

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