Carnival is upon us, despite the restrictions. We are all, I hope, looking for ways to celebrate the season without undue risk. Let us not forget that we’re celebrating, ostensibly, the last day we can before we start 40 days of fasting for lent on Ash Wednesday.
We are having to do a lot of things differently these days, and we’re adapting as we always do. The House Float movement has been fantastic, and it’s spread all over the City. It’s more than just folks decorating their houses; in many cases the decorations have been made by people who would otherwise be putting the rolling sort of float together. Here, as elsewhere, the Krewe of Red Beans has been instrumental.
It is going to be difficult to deal with Mardi Gras without parades and without large gatherings, but there’s precedent. There were no parades during the civil war, and in 1875 Rex and Comus cancelled their exhibition due to the racist insurrection we know as the “Battle of Liberty Place.” Seriously, if you’re not familiar, you should read more about it.
Parades have also been cancelled because of the Yellow fever, the first and second world wars and the Spanish Flu. In ’79 there was a police strike that caused parades on Fat Tuesday to be called off.
That’s over the 164 or so year period we’ve had parades for Carnival. Not a bad record, really.
So in the spirit of the Float House (or House Float) movement, I propose that for the period between Vendredi Gras and Fat Tuesday, we all search our attics, closets, pantries and anywhere else one might find abandoned kitchen implements.
I’m talking about things you were given as gifts and have never used. I’m talking about things you purchased thinking, “I’ll absolutely use this because this is going to change the way I cook.” I’m talking about any piece of kitchen equipment that is in your possession and which you have not used in more than one year.
These sorts of things generally include self-contained deep-fryers, ice cream makers, waffle irons, pressure cookers (and yes, I’m looking at you if you have an Instant Pot in your home gathering dust.) I’m also talking about juicers, and things that will cut vegetables into spiral slices. Hey, what about that salad spinner gathering dust on top of your refrigerator?
Many of us are going to have some time off – off of what, I don’t know – but it’s at least an excuse to dig into the things that you haven’t given away because at one point you thought you might actually use it.
For me, recently, it was a juicer. My wife and I miscommunicated on the need for carrots. We both thought we needed carrots and so I bought some and my wife did as well. She went to Costco, though, so we had a lot of carrots.
“Hey!” I thought to myself, “I have a really nice juicer!” So I juiced a lot of carrots and some beets and I think I threw some ginger in for good measure. Unfortunately, it’d been a while since I used the juicer, so the juice was not really “juice” as much as “juicy pulp.” I really like fresh carrot juice, but I prefer not to chew it.
My point is that I am going to bring the juicer back out over the next week and I am going to remember how to use it without having to strain the result through coffee filters three times to make it palatable. Because that’s what I did.
The good news is that the juice I ended up with made one of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted, and I can make a sauce. I cooked some minced shallot and garlic in beef fat, then added some stock, the juice and fresh thyme and reduced it for quite a while before mounting it with butter at the end. I am my own worst critic, but this was spectacular.
So now I am thinking about pulling out the ice cream maker (hopefully before it gets too cold again) and the sous vide circulator I haven’t used in six months and perhaps that spriralizer, too.
I encourage you to do the same. Fire up that George Forman grill. Get the hot pot out of storage. Do you have some sort of electric-powered fondue set? Go to your local wine shop and find a bottle of Swiss wine and fire that baby up.
Next week: several things, including a use for leftover king cake.