Mardi Gras part 4, Throws

Throw me something Mister!

Mardi Gras loot from the MOTs.

Mardi Gras loot from the MOTs.

When you think of Mardi Gras, most people think  of the parades. Thousands crowd the street, jumping up and down and screaming, “Throw me somethin’ Mister!”  Just remember to keep your shirt on, this ain’t New Orleans.  What in the world could all these people want?

Throws.  Mardi Gras throws.  There are rules about what the masked riders can throw.  There’s also tradition.  There’s plenty of candy, stuffed animals, Frisbee’s, and plastic cups.  Those are great, but I want the big 3.

The Big 3 of Mardi Gras Throws:

  1. Beads– Cheap plastic bead necklaces they may be, but they are hot! They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the more unique the better.  The added bonus: Krispy Kreme doughnuts will give you a dozen free hot nows for a 12 lb. bag of beads.  A local school for the disabled uses them for job training.
    This year I noticed the society abbreviations made in plastic and light up.  That was fun to get, the kids love anything that lights up.  The group emblem is also a great necklace to get.  The MOTs emblem is a dragon.

    Dragon float.

    Dragon float.

  2. doubloons-These are the holy grail of Mardi Gras. Each Mystic Society has coins made with their emblem. They also have them made new each year with the theme and year printed on them. Not every masked rider throws them, and in my experience they’re a bit stingy with them. The masked riders buy their own throws, doubloons are pricy to buy. They are hard to catch and find in the dark.  They are my favorite throw.  I’ll give up all the moon pies for doubloons. We did manage to catch a few this year, all were general and not specific to the parade.  It’s not just me that loves these coins.  There is a collectors club for Mardi Gras doubloons.

    An MOT marshal.

    An MOT marshal.

  3. Moon Pies- The traditional catch and snack food of the parade.  I don’t eat Moon Pies, but they are fun to catch and give away.

Two hours of chasing floats rendered quite a haul.  I am hoarse, tired, and coming down with a cold.  But it was worth it.  The MOTs (mystics of time) have several dragons that lead their parade.  They undulate down the street and breath smoke and fire.  This was my first MOT parade and the first parade we took our children to in downtown Mobile.  It was awesome.  We ate over priced nachos, boiled peanuts, and corn dogs while waiting for the parade. We met visitors from out of town and got hit in the head with more than one bag of unopened beads.  And for the record, Raman Noodles hurt!

Even horses get a mani and pedi for Mardi Gras.

Even horses get a mani and pedi for Mardi Gras.

Happy Lundi Gras,

CK

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Mardi Gras part 3, Moon Pies

The Moon Pie

Moon Pies are to Mardi Gras as Candy Canes are to Christmas.  It’s impossible to separate the two. Crowds of thousands descend on downtown Mobile screaming for these round treats.  What?  You don’t know what a moon pie is?

It’s a cookie sandwich filled with marshmallow and covered in….something resembling chocolate.  The coating varies based on the flavor.  Every year a new flavor is introduced and at times one or two are retired.  Banana, chocolate, orange, and vanilla are just a few flavors.  This year peanut butter and mint were retired.  The complaints have been massive.  No they are not whoopie pies.

With the moon pie being so popular you would think these were local creations- and you would be wrong.  Moon pies come from Chattanooga, Tennessee.  They started making them around 1917 and cost a meager 5¢ a piece.  I’m not sure how they became linked with Mardi Gras.  The pair are, now, inseparable.  Hoards of people stand on the side of the street screaming for moon pies.  Once tossed to the crowd, adults and kids jump to grab them and then scour the sidewalk for the ones that got away. It would be easier to go to the store and buy them off the shelf.

The Moon Pie is so iconic to Mobile, that on New Year’s Eve we drop a giant replica from the side of a hotel.

The newspaper, or what passes for a paper, is filled with recipes that use the sought after treat.  I’ve heard the moon pies you buy at the store aren’t as good as the ones you catch in the wilds of the parade. If all else fails and you find yourself with a mess of moon pies, deep fry them.

What’s your favorite flavor?

CK

Mardi Gras part 2, Joe Cain Day

 Joe Cain: Who is he and why does he have a full day of parades in his honor?

Joe Cain's Burial Site

Joe Cain’s Burial Site

Mardi Gras was brought to Mobile by the French at 27 Mile Bluff in 1703.  It’s safe to say, it wasn’t how we celebrate it today.  I imagine it was just a service, food, and family.  Today, Mardi Gras is weeks of parades and balls thrown by masked revelers.

The modern Mardi Gras owes it’s life to a guy named Joe Cain.  He even has a Mardi Gras day dedicated to him and his Merry Widows.  Joe Cain Day is the Sunday before Fat Tuesday, Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras Day and marks the end to festivities.  Reality and myth have mixed and made it difficult to make out the real story.  So here’s one version.

Joseph Stillwell Cain

1832-1904

Joe Cain Chief Slacabamorinico 400pxphotographer unknown

Before the Civil War, the first Mystic society was born. Cowbellion de Rakin Society, consisted of Michael Krafft and his dinner companions taking to the streets with “borrowed” cowbells and garden implements.  Hmmm, that’s a far cry from modern parades with a dozen or more beautiful floats.  Each layer croweded with people in masks throwing treats at the crowd. This stopped during the Civil War.  Joseph Stillwell Cain, in 1866, decided to revive Krafft’s parade.  On Shrove Tuesday, he gathered some friends, “borrowed” a coal cart, and made simple costumes.  In case you can’t tell from the photo, he’s supposed to be Chickasaw Indian chief Slacabamorinico.  That is how the modern Mardi Gras started.  Still a different monster than the beast that’s currently prowling downtown Mobile.

I have no clue how a few guys dressed like indians parading in the streets turned into the Mardi Gras we have today, but I think Cain would be proud!

Joe Cain Day is on February 15.  You can catch his widows at the Church Street Graveyard weeping over his grave between 11:25-11:45.  Trust me, if you’re in town, you want to see that!

Happy Parading,

CK

Mardi Gras part 1, King Cakes

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King Cakes!

As you may know, we are knee deep in Mardi Gras here in lower Alabama. Mardi Gras is an odd event, even to some of us that live here.  One Mardi Gras tradition is the King Cake.  There are many bakeries around town that make King Cakes and even a bit of competition on who makes the best one.

I had my first King Cake when I was dating my husband.  He grew up in Mobile, whereas I grew up in a more rural area of the county.  Mardi Gras wasn’t as big a deal where I grew up.  We went to a few parades a season and that was it.  Having had worked with serious Mardi Gras people over the past few years, I have learned a lot.  Back to the King Cakes.

King Cakes come in different flavors, much like moon pies, there’s a flavor for everyone.  The most popular may be the cream cheese filled cake. I prefer the cinnamon filled, it’s like a giant cinnamon roll.  But what is a King Cake and why do we have it only during Mardi Gras?

King Cakes are rolled, filled cakes shaped like an open circle, with a plastic baby hidden inside. I still haven’t found the one in this cake, I think I may have been gypped.  Please don’t choke on it.  The person who gets the baby is supposed to buy the next King Cake.  Colored sugar covers the glaze icing.  The sugar is in Mardi Gras colors: gold (power), green (faith), and purple (Justice).

Is a warning really needed?

Is a warning really needed?

The history I’ve read links the cake with Epiphany, which is when the 3 Kings visited Jesus. It occurs 12 days after Christmas, and marks the start of the Mardi Gras season, which will last until Lent.  Lent occurs six weeks before Easter.  You may have noticed that the date for Easter changes year to year, so does Mardi Gras. Some years it’s early and others it’s late.  It’s always nice when it falls on my birthday, most local businesses/schools close for Mardi Gras week!

Here is a link to an interesting article on the King Cake by Scientific American.  Given the source, some may find fault with the information.  (They like to link everything to Pagans.)  Regardless, it is an interesting article on King Cakes and Mardi Gras.

There you go.  The mysterious King Cake demystified.  What’s your favorite flavor?

CK