Mardi Gras. It’s my favorite holiday. After Christmas, I rush to pick up my decorations and prepare for the best time of year: Mardi Gras. Fun fact: I met my husband 8 years ago on Lundi Gras. My parents brought me to Mardi Gras parades ever since I can remember. I come from a long line of Mardi Gras lovers. My grandmother collected Mardi Gras beads. She cleaned them and organized them, labeling them “nice pearl beads” and “really nice pearl beads” and “really, really nice pearl beads”.
I grew up spending Mardi Gras in Thibodaux, and now that I live in Acadiana, Lafayette parades are something I crave. The culture, the music and the vibes are so unbelievable, and something I look forward to every year. The Mardi Gras state of mind is something that brought my husband and I together, that caused my parents to dance and celebrate, and a magical way of thinking that brings people together. I love Mardi Gras balls and parades every weekend. Give me all of it.
This year, I prepared for Mardi Gras like any other year. I ordered Shelby’s monogrammed Mardi Gras attire in time for her to wear the selection a month in advance. I ordered myself a pair of fabulous, hand made, leather Mardi Gras earrings. i decorated a small, gold Christmas tree with Mardi Gras decorations. One month out, my family and I shared Mardi Gras parade calendars and speculated which parades we’d go to. Having spent King’s Day in New Orleans this year, I was spirited and ready.
But then, the weeks flew by. Work got crazy. We were hit with unexpected surprises. And before I knew it, it was 2 weeks from Mardi Gras. I told myself “you better get a game plan”. I watched everyone’s Instagram stories of all the unbelievable parades in New Orleans. I saw all the social media posts from Spanish Town in Baton Rouge and Rio in Lafayette. The Youngsville Parade is always a good time and man were those pictures awesome. But something was different in my reaction. Instead of having FOMO, I had another feeling. I didn’t really want to go.
GASP. I KNOW. I don’t know what happened. At first, I felt guilty. It’s my responsibility to take my child to Mardi Gras parades and teach her the traditions that mean so much to me. It’s good for my soul to watch the marching bands play and to hear “Back that Azz Up” 100 times during the course of a parade. My husband and I bond over Mardi Gras more than any other holiday. So what does it mean if I don’t want to go????
Once I let the guilt subside and stopped being so hard on myself I realized that life has me tired. Life changes have me focused on other things. And while I’m physically not going to any Mardi Gras parades this year, I can find a way to celebrate. Mardi Gras is not just about parades. It’s a state of mind, after all.
So, tonight I’m celebrating Lundi Gras in my own way. I have Trombone Shorty cranked up and I’m cooking my favorite red beans: my mom’s Working Woman’s Red Beans and Rice. This recipe is strangely related to my current thoughts as red beans is something we, as Louisianians, feel a responsibility to do from scratch. Like making a roux and chopping our own produce, red beans from scratch is a Cajun/Creole right of passage. While I’m all about cooking things from scratch, I know the importance of a good short cut because, well, women these days don’t have time to sit over a pot all day. I work long days and if I want to celebrate the Monday tradition of red beans (on Lundi Gras, no less), I need to have that option. That’s what being Cajun is all about, after all. Being resilient and making the best of what we’re given. Whether it’s not feeling Mardi Gras or using Blue Runner red beans, sometimes we all need to press the easy button and enjoy the gifts of our culture in a more simple way. It’s ok to do that, I’m learning.
I hope everyone is having a good Mardi Gras. If your Mardi Gras is broken like mine, there’s always next year. And if you didn’t go to any parades, carry that Mardi Gras state of mind with you anyway, because that’s where the magic is.
This recipe is one of my first on the blog years ago. Red beans is a Monday tradition in New Orleans, but it can be time consuming. I love cooking red beans from scratch, but sometimes, this quick, simple option is just what this busy, working mom needs. Just like I said about managing to celebrate Mardi Gras without parades, you can still cook delicious Cajun recipes without slaving over a stove.
Working Woman’s Red Beans and Rice
Wine Pairing: it’s Mardi Gras. Drink whatever you want, Cher.
Music Pairing: Trombone Shorty playlist
Blue Runner Red Beans (2 26 oz cans, 1 16 oz can) I make a big pot of this because it’s great for leftovers and also freezes well
1 can rotel
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1.5 lb smoked sausage, chopped
Liquid smoke- 2 tablespoons
Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Sauce 3 tablespoons (more or less depending on how much you like spice and garlic. I usually add more than this)
Worcestershire- a few dashes
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, dried parsley flakes
Rice- I cooked 2 cups
Bring a large pot over medium high heat. Once warm, brown sausage.
Add holy trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper) to the pot, cooking in the grease from the sausage, and cook until translucent. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, dried parsley
Once trinity is soft and translucent, add rotel to the pot. Stir to combine.
Add red beans to the pot. Stir, warming the beans through. Once the beans are warmed through, they will thin out. At this point, add the Cajun Power, Liquid Smoke, and Worcestershire. Stir to combine.
Cover pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with a heaping spoon of rice, and some cornbread. Turn up the Rebirth Jazz music, drink your favorite wine (or Moscow mule as pictured above), grab a white napkin, and second line around your kitchen while you eat your delicious red beans. Take that, Monday!!
Happy Mardi Gras, however you’re celebrating. Remember, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, Mardi Gras state of mind is something you take with you, not something you have to attend.
xoxo, Cajun Queen