Green, purple, and gold. Decorated masks, elaborate costumes, lively parties, fragrant food. All of these are commonly associated with the holiday Mardi Gras; in French meaning “Fat Tuesday”.
Mardi Gras is celebrated in various countries around the world, New Orleans, Louisiana hosting one of the most popular celebrations, along with Venice, Italy and Nice, France. While this is the case, many do not know where Mardi Gras originated, or what the celebrations are meant for. Each year, millions gather the day before “Ash Wednesday,” (usually in the month of February) counting down 40 days until Easter. Generally, those who religiously practice Lent indulge in their favorite activities and foods before giving them up for the fasting of Lent.
The majority of Americans think of New Orleans when they hear Mardi Gras, but this celebration was influenced by Carnival, brought over by the French. In France, “carnival” developed from the Italian word “carne levare” meaning to remove meat. This is because traditionally, practicing Catholics and Anglicans do not eat meat once Lent begins, along with flavorful foods that have sugar, eggs, dairy products, and fat.
With Christmas being only a few short days away, I know I have a treat in store – visiting the in-laws! One of the things I love most about visiting my fiancée’s American family is knowing that they will, without fail, introduce me to a new and interesting dish. As a seasoned foodie, I never consider my stay in any country to be complete until I have tasted as many of its national dishes as possible. My motto in life, especially when it comes to food, is to be open to trying anything once. My future mother-in-law, an excellent chef who loves feeding people, is always more than happy to indulge my passion for unfamiliar cuisine. It was thanks to her efforts that I had the pleasure of trying a dish known as the Tater Tot Casserole.
As you have probably gathered by now, I am not an American. I hail from England, where casseroles exist, but not of the tater tot variety. Actually, I had never even heard of tater tots until joining the in-laws at their Huntington Beach home earlier this semester. Fortunately, my fiancée was more than happy to share her knowledge of this American tradition. Tater tots, she explained, are a sort of miniature hash brown, a fare that is typically produced from the leftover potato shavings of manufactured French fries. Once balled together, these potato lumps are frozen, bagged, and sold to be microwaved at home. Though not a particularly appetizing image, tater tots are a staple amongst Americans and a special favorite for children of all backgrounds.