February 27, 2019
Philadelphia may be 1,088 miles from New Orleans, but there's no reason why you can't throw a proper Mardi Gras party next Tuesday honoring all the best in this Louisiana tradition.
So, how do you throw a legit Mardi Gras party? It's going to take a little creativity, overnight shipping, and a really good name for your krewe (pronounced 'crew'), or your Mardi Gras group. As a born-and-bred south Louisianan, I'll take you through all you need to know.
First, some background:
Mardi Gras is an official Louisiana holiday. Most people do get off work and school in Louisiana, specifically south Louisiana, to honor this party-hard French tradition. Originally brought to Louisiana in 1699 by the French, the holiday was made official in 1875 when the "Mardi Gras Act" was passed. Mardi Gras, "Fat Tuesday," honors the day before Ash Wednesday in Catholic tradition, or in other words, the day before Lent begins and you have to be a good Catholic and fast for 40 days.
Basically the point of this holiday is to eat as much and, honestly, even sin (within reason, guys, don't be a heathen) as much as you possibly can before you enter into Lent. So, let’s make this Mardi Gras one to remember (or, you know, not remember.)
First of all, before you do anything, your party needs a theme and a name by which it should refer to, like Krewe du Philadelphia or Krewe du Rue Broad (or fill in some other street name). You can also name it after a specific thing you and your friends love. For instance in NOLA, there's a krewe called Krewe du Who, which honors all things "Doctor Who."
The official Mardi Gras color scheme is purple, green and gold. Green is a symbol of faith, purple stands for justice, and gold stands for power. The colors were chosen by Krewe du Rex in 1872 simply because the colors "looked good together.” So, in all fairness, the reasoning doesn't exactly go all that deep, but it has became a tradition nonetheless.
If you're not getting wasted on Bourbon Street, the least you can do is bring the drinks to you. Hurricanes are probably the most widely known cocktail from NOLA, but nothing beats a really good frozen daiquiri. They're everywhere in south Louisiana - we even have daiquiri drive-throughs.
There is a Fat Tuesday in Philly, known for their New Orleans daiquiris, on South St., so if you want the alcohol without the trouble of having to make it yourself you can always stockpile there. Or, if you'd rather, you can always make them at home. Here are a few recipes: Deadbeat Daiquiri, Peach Daiquiri, and Pink Daiquiri.
Next to alcohol, Mardi Gras is all about food. Crawfish, king cake, and gumbo are staples of Mardi Gras cuisine. It's really hard to have a Mardi Gras party without king cake, in fact, it really wouldn't be much of one without it. You can order one from Louisiana to get the most flavor at your party, but you can also make one yourself. If you're going to order it, there are a few Louisiana bakeries I recommend.
Meche's Donuts in New Iberia offers, by far, one of the the best king cakes. It's not a traditional king cake, it's a donut king cake. It will melt in your mouth, and it will make you wonder how you ever lived without it. You also can’t go wrong with New Orleans classics such as Manny Randazzo, Gambino’s, or Sucre.
Gumbo, a traditional Cajun and Creole dish, is the perfect accompaniment for any Louisiana-themed party. There are two types of gumbo in Louisiana: Creole and Cajun. Creole, more commonly found in New Orleans, has tomatoes and a darker roux, while Cajun, most commonly found in Acadiana, is a lighter roux and typically does not have tomatoes.
Chicken and andouille sausage gumbo is one of the easier gumbos to make. (Take note that the roux needs to constantly be stirred for about 20 minutes or it will burn. It takes a little more effort, but it's worth it.)
My only other tip for planning your Mardi Gras bash is to make sure there's enough for everyone. Mardi Gras, after all, is a communal celebration. The prep sometimes takes some effort, but doing it with friends and family is part of the fun and what makes Louisiana culture so special. ...And also partying, because who wants to pass up an excuse to party?