Isn’t it interesting that the day proceeding the start of Lent is seen in some places as an all-out binge?
There is something a bit silly, and perhaps even ironic, in practicing indulgence at its finest in the week before one was to make a sacrifice by abstaining from said indulgences. But then that is human nature, right?
For those unfamiliar with the tradition, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in English, is the day before Ash Wednesday, which starts the 40 days of Lent. Lent is a time of solemn sacrifice in honour of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert, enduring temptation from Satan.
I don’t want to disrespect the honourable traditions of Lent but this week I am focused on the essence of the celebration of life that surrounds Mardi Gras and Carnival festivals around the world.
Even if you don’t follow Lentian customs, I’m sure you can agree that making the most of life at any time is a good idea.
Wouldn’t it brighten a mid-February evening to have a group of family or friends dress up for dinner and show off their outfits the way the bourgeois used to do in Venice cafes? They would strut their stuff through the town piazza as if on display. The outfits were dazzling costumes with luxurious fabrics and jewel adornments.
Or perhaps you would prefer to turn up the music (and maybe the heat) and adorn everyone with beaded necklaces? You could play New Orleans jazz and march around the living room, or go more exotic and add feathers – it’s like Carnevale in Rio de Janiero.
You could go with the Pancake Tuesday theme. In Olney, England, they have a world-famous pancake race. The race is in honour of a parishioner who apparently lost track of time and ran out her door with her pan of pancakes in her hand when the church bell rang to signal the service starting.
Today, contestants dress up like housewives in aprons and kerchiefs and must carry their pan (complete with pancake) over a 415-yard course through town. They are even required to flip their pancake at the start and finish of the race. I’m hoping they make fresher pancakes to consume afterwards.
You don’t have to race or dress up. But in case you want to indulge in eating, here are some ideas:
• Various kinds of donuts and fritters—Here’s my favourite recipe.
• Crepes or pancakes (see last week’s column for my link to delicious Icelandic crepes)
• The New Orleans King cake with a hidden figurine. Whoever gets it in their piece has to host the next party.
If you’d like to toast your good life with something decadent, sparkling wines work well. Cognac works too, or even fun cocktails. After all, this is one of those times when the philosophy of “carpe diem” fully applies.
It is a reminder we often need but rarely heed the advice to live life to its fullest and enjoy each moment for what it brings. Practicing that habit more often might even improve on our nature.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.