Saturday, March 21, 2009

St. Patricks day

Colin and I spent the Saturday March 14th on Magazine street watching the New Orleans St. Patrick's day parade. This was the first time we saw these festivities, having missed last years parade. We had a good time though, and I am pretty sure that we will be sure and go to next years celebration.

Firstly, allow me to set the scene for you. Southern Louisiana has been experiencing a lack of rain for this time of year. In fact, according to climatologists, we are experiencing a "mild drought". We had gone weeks without a drop of rain, making the Mardi Gras season quite enjoyably dry. It could not last forever though, and on the day the parade was going to roll it poured for the whole day. This did not mean that the parade was canceled, just that everyone stood out in the drenching rain for the afternoon. Luckily the small group we were with had been well fortified with whiskey cake (see recipe below). Unluckily, it was so wet that I was not able to capture any photos of the event, and you will have to make do with descriptions and photos shamelessly stolen from

Firstly, there are more people who walk in the St. Patrick's day parades than those that ride. Most of those who walk are men dressed either in black tuxedos, or kilts. These men carry Irish themed objects for distribution (the equivalent of float 'throws'). Items for distribution include beads, flowers, stickers, cups, magnets, and for some reason, thong underwear and garter belts.

The beads were of course primarily in green and white, sometimes with Irish flags or shamrocks and occasionally with a small plastic beer cups attached, which you could get filled by float members distributing liquor. Some beads were clearly designed for just the St. Patrick's day parade, and some could have been used for Mardi Gras too.

The flowers were mostly fake plastic carnations in either green, white or orange, and were displayed on "flower canes" a typically bizarre New Orleans creation consisting of a plastic or bamboo umbrella handle and shank, around which is a layer of Styrofoam with individual plastic flowers stuck into the foam. (In the photo above, the man on the right holds his flower cane) To get a flower, you had to catch the eye of a walking gentleman and he would present you with a flower in exchange for a kiss on the cheek. Colin however, found an equally good method of obtaining flowers which was less intimate. He would simply run up to one of these guys and ask pathetically if he could have a flower for his wife. Usually the parade member would willingly give him one without asking for any kiss in return.

There were some floats as well in the parade, but they were definitely less predominant than they are in the Mardi Gras celebrations. Mostly the floats held women and children who were family members of the men who walked. The floats distributed the usual throws of beads and stuffed animals/ toys, but they also distributed food. Top Ramen packages, individual Lucky Charms cereal bowls, lemons, carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbages were all tossed from the float to the crowds below. The cabbages were particularly dangerous, being both large and heavy, as well as dangerously slippery in the rain. We spent a fair amount of the parade either catching or deflecting cabbages to prevent injury. In the end we had collected six cabbages. Luckily we found someone to give a few to after the parade was over. We met a lady on the way to our car who was sitting on her porch. She asked how the parade went, and as we got to talking she mentioned how her severe arthritis, had prevented her from attending the parade, and collecting her usual cabbage haul. We gladly gave her some of our excess cruciferous vegetables, and in the last week have managed to eat the remaining three.

The last thing you ever see before dying is an incoming cabbage.

Whiskey cake:
(Adapted from the Irish Spirit; recipes inspired by the legendary drinks of Ireland)

1 cup raisins
1.5 cups water

1.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
.75 teaspoon cloves
.75 teaspoon nutmeg
dash allspice
.5 teaspoon salt

1 stick (.5 cup) butter
.5 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

.25 cup Irish whiskey
1 cup chopped walnuts

Optional frosting
8 oz Neufchatel cheese
.5 cup confectioners sugar
.25 cup whiskey

1. turn oven on to 350 degrees. while oven preheats, place raisins and water in a small saucepan on high heat, until water boils. Then, turn down stove and let raisins simmer for about 20 minutes.

2. While raisins are simmering, place the flour, baking soda, baking powder, the spices and salt in a bowl. Stir these dry ingredients together until well mixed.

3. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together with a mixer until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes) . Then, add the egg and beat until smooth.

4. Take the saucepan of raisins and remaining water. Remove all the raisins, and pour the water off into a measuring cup until you have .75 cup of water. Throw away any other remaining water in the pan.

5. Into the butter/sugar/egg mixture fold the flour mixture, alternating with the remaining raisin water. Then fold in the whiskey, raisins, and walnuts.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes in a 8 inch cake pan. Blend frosting ingredients together until smooth, frost cake when cool.

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