Mardi Gras, using every little bit

We're in the lead-up to Mardi Gras right now, at least the folks in Louisiana are. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is next Tuesday, Feb 21. I've not been to the New Orleans parades in years but do hope to take the boys sometime soon. My cousin's little girls have all the gear- the purple, gold and green hats, millions of beads, and the enviably cool ladder chair for watching the floats roll by from a vantage point above most heads in the crowds. It's a seat with wheels affixed to a ladder; this is a great invention. You can wheel your kids' perch down the street -no heavy lifting required- and then upend it, open the ladder and voila, a sturdy seat on high. I just love south Louisiana spirit. Folks associate joie de vivre and laissez le bon temps rouler ('love of life' and 'let the good times roll,' respectively) with Louisiana for a reason: the pace is often slow (it is hot, and the food can be heavy!); people are neighborly in the sense of looking out for each other being the right thing to do rather than an unwelcome obligation; boys (not just girls) learn how to dance and talk comfortably to adults; lovely manners are instilled from an early age (thank you notes, RSVPs, yes ma'am, no thank you); and eccentricity is AOK.

Certainly there are tremendous weaknesses, don't get me wrong. Public education is, by and large, the pits. Politics? Crooked as get out.  The mentality can definitely be small-minded, religion can definitely veer towards the freakily evangelical, and so on. But there is something to be said for a place that boasts New Orleans, Cajuns, Creole cuisine, Mardi Gras, beer cozies on necklaces for hands-free fun, great musical traditions and culture in spades. While I certainly didn't love everything, I'm glad to have grown up there, glad that my grandparents lived 5 minutes away, glad to have learned how to really suck the marrow out of experiences, how to party like a champ, how to have a real zest for life and living.

I won't be in LA again until May, and like I said, I don't even remember my last Mardi Gras, but in honor of all that, I toast all y'all down there and will make do with my appropriately hued fleurs.

On another note, I made some fresh ricotta earlier and now have rice pudding made with its whey in the oven. I love when you get to use every little bit of something. Consider that notion next time you're about to toss something. Carrot tops? Make a pesto. And on and on.