It's Carnival Season!
It’s carnival season! Ok, maybe it doesn’t quite feel like it in Los Angeles but the Krewes in New Orleans are gearing up for February 21st. Every year, I get on social media and torture myself as I watch all of my friends and family experiencing one of New Orleans greatest traditions, Mardi Gras.
So much about about my hometown of New Orleans was taken for granted when I was growing up. I never appreciated our unique culture until I moved away in 2010. New Orleans will always be home, although I only get back to visit maybe once a year. It’s one of those places that you carry with you and speak about with a sense of pride.
My kids are Angelenos but I usually make it a point to take at least one of them on my trips home. It’s important to me that they get as much authentic New Orleans culture while visiting. Since their births, I eagerly waited for them to reach the age to attend and enjoy their first Mardi Gras.
In 2020, mere weeks before the world shut down due to the pandemic, our family of four headed to New Orleans for the kids first taste of Mardi Gras. We read a children’s book on Mardi Gras so they had some idea of what to expect but no idea the amount of fun that they were in for.
Almost immediately upon arriving and getting to Gram’s (my mom Ann) House, we dropped luggage and walked to St. Charles Avenue. Elle and Beckham’s minds were blown at everything they were witnessing, crowds of revelers lining the parade route, vendors selling illuminating toys, cotton candy, and candied apples, trumpets and drums as the next high school band approached. Most importantly, the floats and throws!
A kids paradise. Colorful beads, toys, frisbees, cups, doubloons, and stuffed animals were flying everywhere and theirs for the taking. Neither Elle or Beckham wanted to leave but we assured them that this was just the build up to Mardi Gras Day. Besides, I needed to get back to Ann’s House to cook pralines. Our first opportunity and soft launch of Ann’s Creole Candies was set to debut at my brother Vaughn and his wife Marissa’s elopement celebration.
The pressure was definitely on. I was tasked with making one hundred of our original pecan pralines for family and friends who knew exactly what my mom's pecan candy tasted like. Mine had better be right, especially since I decided to name our company in honor of her.
Over the course of several days, before day parades and following night parades, I toiled away in Ann’s kitchen struggling to make her pralines. None of the pralines were setting correctly. In fact, the only batches that set perfectly were those made under close supervision from my mom. The more failed batches put me further and further away from my goal. I was a wreck!
I stepped back from cooking, taking breaks to appreciate my kids experiencing their first Mardi Gras. It was like reliving my childhood on one of my favorite holidays of the year. I loved hoisting them up on my shoulders for a better view of the sights, giving them my pro tips for getting the best throws, and simply laughing and enjoying carnival with my family and friends.
Our first run at making pralines did not go as planned. However, Elle and Beckham’s first carnival is still one they talk about.
Happy Mardi Gras from Ann’s Creole Candies!