I've read that the residents of Louisiana are the most obese in our obese country. After the good eating we've been enjoying, I can see why. The cooking draws on the French tradition and incorporates the local seafood and the spices of Africa. The end result is irresistible. So we headed to the New Orleans Cooking School to learn how to make some of this tasty stuff for ourselves. Chef Kevin looked like he had enjoyed his own cooking just a bit too much over the years, but he was charming. As he effortlessly prepared the gumbo, etouffeé, pecan pie and pralines he kept up a delightful patter of jokes, stories and anecdotes. It was not a canned speech. When we would ask questions, inevitably the answer made us laugh. When someone asked how long the dried garlic he was using would last he answered, "It will keep well until the house floods." When he told us that the local NBC affiliate uses him to fill in dead time when they cover parades or other events, it was easy to believe. That man put on a great show! And then we ate his food. Ooo-wee. It was so good, I felt inspired to go to the gift shop and buy some spices and seasonings. But by the time we are done enjoying all the treats this tour provides, I may have forgotten how to cook entirely.
Then we headed outside to see the crescendo of Mardi Gras activity in the French Quarter. There wasn't as much going on as there should have been, because of the intermittent rain. Some of the krewes were feasting at the restaurants and after the meal they headed up to the balconies of the restaurants to throw beads to passers by on the street. We also ran into a mini krewe of women who were generous with beads as well. So far it appears that the only XXX activity occurs on Bourbon Street. A bunch of gay guys in their BVD's were dancing on the bar. When the rain came down harder, there were plenty of bars to choose from with plenty of famous New Orleans specialities on the menu, the Hurricane perhaps the most notorious.
Fortunately the final event of the day was inside - a visit to the facilities of Mardi Gras World. Blaine Kern was in his teens when he started building floats and now that he is in his 80's, he still comes to work at Mardi Gras World every day to supervise. About 80% of the floats in the parades are built here. They used to be made of papier maché, but these days they are fiber glass. All the floats are new every year. But the materials are recycled. The paint is removed and new paint and props are added. You imagine it; they can build it. Some of the floats were beautiful with flowers and jewels. Others bordered on the profane. Satire is a large part of the entertainment. Krewe members were there loading case after case of beads and other throws into the floats. Putting on this show is a lot of work.