Each year the colorful lure of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday brings people from around the world to Louisiana. Besides the traditional parade, everyone also gathers for the famous food. Mariana Titus, a prolific Bayou author, artist and photographer from Louisiana, talked to me about the variety of Cajun foods served during Carnival season and throughout the year.
Bayou Tales from Mariana Titus
Mariana Titus is an author, artist and photographer who grew up in Louisiana. Currently she also resides in Santa Barbara and Nevada but continues to maintain the lovely home of her youth. Mariana is the author of five books including “Sunday Mornings, Crowning Glories,” “Graveyards and Bayou Bars,” “Summers Full of Porch Bull,” “Hurricanes, Healings and Dancing Ceilings,” and “Rain, Cane and Bayou Refrain.”
Clearly Mariana is passionate about her hometown. For the past three decades, she has photographed the area and recorded colorful stories of the Bayou people. Her books take readers through a tour of Bayou bars, sugar cane fields, churches and more. The chapters speak of the eclectic cuisine in the area including, “If I Can Catch It, I Can Cook It” and “Love is Better than Rabbit Spaghetti.” It only seemed natural to talk to Mariana about the Cajun cuisine served for Mardi Gras and throughout the year.
Cajun Food for Mardi Gras and Daily Dining
When I spoke to Mariana she explained, “This is basically an over-all of the other Cajun towns. My town is Franklin. It is typical of most of the Cajun towns. We have a main Krewe and several smaller ones. My family home is on Main St. and each year on Mardi Gras day, the town parade happens. Since we are on the parade route, there is usually a live band such as Johnny Chauvin playing on our front porch. There are about five large barbecue pits barbecuing an assortment of meat. My sister has a concession stand as well.”
Mardi Gras is about more than food, it also includes plenty of fun. Mariana continued, “Everyone dances in the front yard. In the weeks before this hometown party, folks go to the balls and there is a king and a queen. Everyone dresses formally at these balls or else to a particular theme. The one I went to was Treasure Island. At these balls, the King and Queen and Krewe are presented and then there is a dance. Naturally, New Orleans is more formal.”
While Mariana typically avoids the crowds in New Orleans, she has found inspiration there and said, “In my earlier paintings New Orleans played a big part because I found the French Quarter intriguing - it still is but I see things differently in recording my artwork. Being in the Quarter is inspirational at all times.”
Talking About Unique Cajun Cuisine
Mariana explained the only special food served for Mardi Gras is the King Cake and said Meche's Bakery in New Iberia makes it best. She told me, “Mardi Gras in New Orleans is different than the others in Cajun country.” Besides barbecued foods and King Cake, Cajun foods include a variety of unique dishes such as “all kinds of gumbos, etoufee, turtle sauce piquant, crawfish bisque, boiled crawfish, on and on!”
After our discussion, Mariana turned to friends to find out a few of their favorites. Fish is definitely on the list with dishes such as redfish courtboullion and catfish courtboullion. A few unusual dishes included frog legs, turtle sauce picante and fried squirrel. It seems squirrel brains are a delicacy. Another dish mentioned was rabbit spaghetti, just like the chapter in Mariana's book. There are also some familiar favorites such as shrimp fettuccine, fried chicken, red beans and jambalaya as well as creamy slaw. One friend recommended king cakes from Haydel's Bakery in New Orleans because they are shipped with beads and the history of Mardi Gras. Haydel's Bakery was also featured on the Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras party on ABC's "The Chew." Whether you choose to get daring or stick with barbecued favorites, Carnival season is a time of adventure and good memories before Ash Wednesday and Lent begin.
Image Source: Mariana Titus