On Tuesday, Feb. 17th, Dining Services hosted a New Orleans-themed affair in honor of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, essentially the last week of indulgence before the beginning of the Catholic tradition of Lent, was held in the dining hall, seemingly transporting the entire student body to Louisiana for an extravagant celebration. Tuesday marked the last day of the festival in Louisiana, and was cause for celebration right here in Charleston at Liberty Fresh Food Company.
Upon arriving at the celebration, Miss Judy was there to welcome students as the Dining Services crew passed out classic purple, green and gold bead necklaces. These beads are a symbol of the festival which represent a tradition that dates back to the 1880s. Legend has it that at the first Mardi Gras parade, a man dressed up as Santa Claus used beads as part of his costume, and the tradition was ignited. Of course, CofC students were willing to accept this tradition at Liberty because the beads were both cute and free!
Fat Tuesday, the English translation of Mardi Gras, was the perfect phrase to describe this dining soirée, as the assortment of delicious foods had students going back for second, third and even fourth rounds of food. Peel-and-eat shrimp, jambalaya, oysters and a crawfish boil were the main selections for the night, all of course modeled after typical NOLA dishes. The Cajun flare of these dishes meant that there was no limit on spiciness. Dining Services had us covered, though, with “mocktails” to counteract the flaming tastes of the Big Easy. These mocktails (virgin cocktails) were also New Orleans-themed and included rum-free “hurricanes” and gin-free “Pimm’s Cups.” The most important food, though, was at the dessert table. Beignets, classic NOLA pastries, had to be made constantly because students were grabbing them ceaselessly. Another Louisiana inspired dessert was the King Cake, which was adorned with purple and green frosting to match the Mardi Gras color scheme.
Not only did students gorge themselves on beignets and mocktails, they also had the chance to have some fun. Charleston’s hottest Jazz band made an appearance to help CofC celebrate this great festival. The River City Dixieland Jazz Band blasted music throughout the dining hall and had everyone tapping their feet and dancing throughout the room. While listening to this lively music, students could create and decorate their own Mardi Gras mask. Masks are synonymous with the Mardi Gras festival because during the first celebration, they were used to help carnival-goers hide their social class and be able to become a new person, mingling with various groups of people.
Whether students came for the shrimp, the masks or the music, everyone had a good time on Fat Tuesday here at CofC. Our Mardi Gras might have been minimal compared to the real one, but the traditions were replicated perfectly. So, as the French-speaking Cajuns say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” Let the good times roll!