The 614ortyPlatter – Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

Even the local supermarkets like Kroger have gotten into
the Fat Tuesday groove of late…

Fat Tuesday (or, depending on where you are in the world, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival/Carnaval) has become essentially a day of excess pleasures for the public at large.  Historically, it marks the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten period for a number of religions, including Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans. Typically, for those who observe this period, Lent involves 40 days of self-reflection and -denial, moderation, and reflection on the life, sacrifice, and rising from the dead of Jesus Christ.

In that light, Fat Tuesday essentially is the last day to let out all your excesses, and observing Lent is not required to join in the festivities.  On the food side of the equation, many regional specialties are typically in plentiful supply, and in terms of Columbus, some of these treats have slowly but surely gained shelf space in a number of eateries, bakeries and supermarkets in the area in the past decade.

So in that spirit, we share with you a nice dozen’s worth of songs that hint at some of the food traditions found around the world on this decidedly unique tradition celebrated (and ingested) by millions of people (playlist embedded at the end of this post.)

1) Bacalao Con Papas – Los Karkik’s: Portuguese Carnaval festivities, like others around the world, end on Ash Wednesday. But here, the Portuguese actually hold a feast called the “Batatada” or potato feast, where Bachalao (salted cod) and Potatoes are supplemented with eggs, mint, bread and wine for one last chow down before the Lenten period.  But as it turns out, many communities enjoy this salty creation, and Los Karkis from Guerrero, Mexico, add their praises in their ode.

2) Tylko bądź – Pączki W Tłuszczu: Pączki is the Polish sweet treat of choice to consume en masse before Ash Wednesday.  Essentially a donut, the Polish Pączki version features a sweeter dough, is filled with fruit jellies or pastes, and is often fried in lard.  Pączki W Tłuszczu are the duo Tomasz Karolak and Bartek Miecznikowski from Germany (just kidding…Poland, of course) whose songs have an appealing pop-folk-rock vibe to them.

3) Isolation – Souvlaki, Deborah Grandi: Souvlaki, an ever pleasing combination of meats and vegetables on a skewer, is but one of the many culinary treats you’ll find for munching if you attend the ten-day long Limassol Carnival on the island of Cyprus. From the music side of things, Souvlaki here is a Milan, Italy musician who has been releasing electronica tracks since 2005, including this 2020 release with vocals from fellow countrywoman Deborah Grandi.

4) Jambalaya (On The Bayou) – Hank Williams: Pretty much all the culinary staples of the New Orleans area are consumed in large quantities during their Mardi Gras celebration, including Jambalaya, a Creole dish with multicultural origins consisting of meat, vegetables and rice.  In many ways, Hank Williams needs no introduction; his status as one of the most influential 20th century music artists (country music or otherwise) is even more amazing considering his incredibly and tragically short life (Williams died on his 29th birthday.) 

5) Corn Soup – Marcia Miranda: While the official Carnival celebration for the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is technically only the two days before Ash Wednesday, Carnival festivities actually start shortly after Christmas and continue onward through the official dates, with corn soup being a popular dish for dancing long into the night.  Native islander Miranda is one of the more prominent Soca Parang entertainers, performing for well over decades and surviving a bout with cancer in the early 2010s.

6) Shrove Tuesday – Deadly Nightshade Botanical Society: For many European countries, pancakes (or shroves) are the traditional gluttony target food item before Ash Wednesday as a way to use up excess eggs and dairy in the pantry. This tradition eventually led to this day being known as Shrove Tuesday in those regions of the world. Hailing from Tacoma, WA, the Deadly Nightshade Botanical Society describes themselves as a “steampunk project in touch with their Goth roots” who have put out nine albums since their 2010 debut “Accoutrements & Oddities.”
7) Goroki Na Ka Gnocchi – L’orchidee D’hawai: Verona, Italy has one of the oldest Carnevale celebrations in the country, dating back to 1531.  Interestingly enough, their biggest culinary tradition doesn’t fall on Mardi Gras itself but rather the Friday before, when Gnocchi Friday takes over the city.  A member of the community is designated the “Papa’ de’ Gnocco” (the Father of Gnocchi), and all bars and restaurants serve up some rendition of this pasta favorite.  Hailing from Chambéry, France, L’orchidee D’hawai and its music be described as a little surf, a little electronica, a little clever, and a whole lot of quirky.

8) Orange Crush – R.E.M.: Oranges play a large role in both the Mardi Gras celebrations in Binche, Belgium and Ivrea, Italy.  Their Carnival celebrations are concluded by celebrants engaging in a huge food fight, hurling oranges at each other until the supply is exhausted. Of course, the “Orange Crush” sung about by R.E.M., one of the most successful and well-respected bands to come out of the so-called New Wave of music, is a far more serious matter, being a reference the indiscriminate use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. However, as detailed in this article, it was intended to be a fairly subtle anti-war song; as explained by Mike Mills, “Yes, there was some irony in the sweet deliciousness of the pop drink versus the horrible effects of this chemical. The ironic juxtaposition of those two terms was no accident.”

9) King Cake – Lisa Haley: Perhaps the quintessential dessert for the New Orleans, Louisiana version of Mardi Gras, the brightly colored King Cake cake was imported from France in 1870.  Tradition has it that whoever finds the baked-in figurine (representing the baby Jesus Christ) in their piece wins the opportunity to host next year’s party and bring the King Cake. Lisa Haley, along with her backing band the Zydekats, have carved out a successful career in the Cajun and Zydeco music world, earning a Grammy nomination for her 2007 “King Cake” album.
10) Bocadito – Cadereira: Argentina celebrates Carnaval with a large assortment of foods, including corn and seafood in the form of tamales, stews, and the ubiquitous Bocadito, which are simply-constructed finger sandwiches. Performing this track and hailing from Mexico, Cadereira is a trio of performers who tout their music as an infusion of Cumbia with Reggaeton rhythms.

11) Goa – Sonia Shirsat: While not as pronounced, Portugal had colonial influence on the Indian subcontinent, most prominently in the Goa region. Unsurprisingly, Carnival traditions with a local flair continue here, with Bebinca (a cake made with coconut milk, eggs, butter & jaggery), Chicken Cafreal (with the bird marinated in a spicy marinade and vinegar), and Fish Curry being prominent favorites. Shirsat is one of the founders of Fado, a uniquely Goan singing tradition, and has performed all over Goa and the rest of India.

12) Fejioada – Stan Getz: Last but certainly not least, the Carnaval do Brasil may be the most audacious celebration in the world, with lively parades, brightly colored costumed dancers, and much drinking and eating to be found throughout the country up until Ash Wednesday.  Feijoada, a rich stew with meat, black beans, and herbs served over rice, is the perfect sustenance to keep your body moving through the night. World-renowned tenor saxophonist Getz proved proficient across a number of jazz movements, but is perhaps best known for ushering in the bossa nova sound, most prominently in the 1964 crossover hit “The Girl from Ipanema”, featuring the vocals of Astrud and João Gilberto.

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