Some years I do Carnival up right. This year was not one of those years. But last year…
Oh there was plenty of mindless gluttony this year (emphasis regrettably on mindless. Gluttony is so much more interesting when mindful.). And, as I intended to do a lot of posts leading up to Carnival (ha), lots of baking. But there was not the planning, execution, and general joie de vivre of last year’s effort , which starred our friend to the left, Fritzl the Fasching Ferkel, but it’s not every year a girl can ginger up the energy to cook a pig and a slew of Viennese desserts. Unless the girl is Austrian in which case apparently she cook pigs, waltzes through the night, and still shows up for work every day at 8 AM. And she keeps it up for a MONTH AND A HALF. Wow.
Curiously, exactly what Carnival is and when it starts is a matter of some debate. What is not a debate is when it ends. It ends at 11:59:59 on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Known as Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, in French and Shrove Tuesday in English, the last day of Carnival is your last chance to shove those foods into your mouth and belly that were traditionally forbidden during Lent: to wit meat, eggs, and dairy. Hence the traditional pancake dinner in England, which does use up those last bites, but to me always seems a bit…well…lame. I like pancakes as much as the next girl, but really? Is that the BEST you can do for the big blowout?
Can’t you at least do…a king cake? This big brioche cinnamon roll is the treat of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and if you don’t have time to follow the traditional recipe, you can always cheat and dress up two tubes of Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls as I did to the right. Equipped with a glow-in-the-dark Baby Jesus, nothing says lovin’ like empty calories topped with sugar sprinkles!
Even the reportedly dour Swedes whoop it up with semla, a sweet bun whose inside are usually ripped out to then be replaced with a mixture of almond paste and whipped cream. Swedes often eat semla in a abowl of warm milk, and I urge you to follow this excellent example, but do remain mindful of the story of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden who died of digestion problems ofter consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, topped off by the consumption of 14 semla, the king’s favorite dessert. It’s Carnival, but even gluttony has its limits.