Take the tour | next right Take the tour | next right

Are you using cottonseed oil?

Cottonseed Oil Tour

  • Feb27
  • 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mardi Gras in New Orleans

    No matter where you’re from, you’ve probably heard of Mardi Gras. Your hometown might even throw a parade or feature some drink specials at local bars and restaurants. That said, we’re pretty sure its Mardi Gras celebration — and, come to think of it, the entire weeks-long runup to Fat Tuesday — can’t hold a candle to New Orleans Mardi Gras. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As if you needed more proof that they do things differently in the Big Easy!

    1. Mardi Gras Season Isn’t Just About Fat Tuesday

    “Mardi Gras” is synonymous with the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and with good reason: “Fat Tuesday” is the undeniable culmination of pre-Lenten festivities in New Orleans and elsewhere in the Catholic world. But Mardi Gras season actually lasts far longer than a single 24-hour period: Depending on how the church calendar falls, in fact, it can stretch for more than two months between the Epiphany (Jan. 6, or the 12th day of Christmas) and Ash Wednesday, which falls in February or March. So if you want to capture the Mardi Gras spirit while beating the crowds, no worries — just head to New Orleans before Fat Tuesday!

    1. Those Beads Actually Have a Serious Meaning

    Mardi Gras beads are a prominent symbol of the big day, but they also have a serious meaning. Each color represents a different religious theme or tenet: gold for power, green for faith and purple for justice. Originally, recipients of thrown beads would be selected for their suitability: lawyers might get purple beads, local politicians might get gold, and churchmen might get green.

    1. New Orleans Wasn’t the First U.S. Mardi Gras Host

    Shocking but true! The first U.S. city to host a formal Mardi Gras celebration was actually Mobile, Alabama, an historic Gulf Coast town that also benefited from pervasive French and Creole influence during the 18th and 19th centuries. Although Mobile beat New Orleans to the Mardi Gras punch by several years, its celebration was quickly eclipsed by the Big Easy’s.

    1. For Some, Masks Aren’t Optional

    Mardi Gras costumes and masks seem like fun, harmless components of a fun, harmless holiday, right? Yes and no. While regular revelers are free to dress up or down (way down, in some cases!), New Orleans city law has a deadly serious dress code for folks riding on parade floats. In fact, it’s actually illegal not to wear a mask on a parade float — so if you’re riding high this Mardi Gras, don’t forget your getup!

    1. Mardi Gras Has a Storied Culinary Component

    Amid all the revelry and costuming, it can be easy to forget to pause and refuel. But party people need to eat too, especially if they’ve been running around in pursuit of beads and floats all day. Fortunately, Mardi Gras (and Carnival season in general) has a host of unique culinary traditions that satisfy the palette and entertain the eyes. Two of the most notable: beignets and king cake. Both are straightforward cottonseed oil cooking recipes that can easily be made on a conventional stovetop or in a home oven.

    What’s your favorite little-known fact about Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Next time you’re in the Crescent City during Mardi Gras season, don’t forget your notepad (and camera)!

  • Feb20
  • 4 New Orleans Originals You Can’t Miss This Mardi Gras

    There’s never a bad time to visit New Orleans. Whether you’re a fan of early American history, a lover of French architectural styles or live for partying it up with other thrill-seekers, you’re sure to find something to love in New Orleans.

    But Mardi Gras season brings a host of extra reasons to visit the Big Easy. Here are four New Orleans Mardi Gras originals that you won’t find anywhere else.

    1. Cottonseed Oil Beignets from Cafe du Monde

    From po’boys to daiquiris, New Orleans is home to plenty of culinary originals. One of the most beloved is the beignet, a light, airy pastry — similar to the fried dough you’d find at a carnival or amusement park, but way better! — that’s made with cottonseed oil, confectioner’s sugar and lots of love. Cafe du Monde, a storied New Orleans bakery and restaurant, serves the best-known (and, arguably, plain old best) beignets of them all. If you’re keen on trying theirs, arrive early, as lines can stretch around the block during peak hours.

    1. It’s All About the Krewe

    You mean “crew,” right? Maybe in 49 other states, but not Louisiana. In New Orleans and the surrounding areas, “krewes” are close-knit groups — often friends, family members and neighbors — who organize Carnival parades and balls. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is! To cover expenses, such as parade floats and costumes, krewes typically assess membership fees that can range from $20 to hundreds of dollars. Because of all the organizational work involved, krewes may actively operate for months out of the year, but most parades and balls take place within a month of Mardi Gras.

    1. Historic Trolleys (Without the Hills)

    When most people think of historic trolleys and streetcars, they think of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars. But New Orleans also has a functioning network of historic streetcars — and without the City by the Bay’s unavoidable, stomach-churning ascents and descents. There are three lines: St. Charles, Riverfront, and Canal Street. Collectively, they hit or pass close to most of the major landmarks in the Garden District, French Quarter and downtown New Orleans.

    During Mardi Gras season, these public transit gems become packed with revelers. Will you be using them to get around?

    1. Mardi Gras Beads: Can You Collect Them All?

    Mardi Gras just wouldn’t be the same without the beads. Thrown from parade floats, windows and enthusiastic passers-by, the purple, gold and green beads symbolize the colorful joy of Mardi Gras. They also have a storied history: The first “beads” were actually candied almonds thrown from parade floats in the mid-1800s, but savvy businessmen quickly realized that glass beads would be cheaper and easier to produce en masse. Since the 1870s, glass (now plastic) bead necklaces have been mainstays at Mardi Gras parades throughout New Orleans.

    If you’ve ever been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (and why would you go anywhere else!?), you can probably think of a dozen more items to add to this list. What can we say? New Orleans Mardi Gras originals abound. So the next time you’re walking down Bourbon Street with a hot beignet in your hand or scrambling for stray beads with your new best friend, make a mental note to tell the folks back home.

     

  • Feb13
  • It Wouldn’t Be Mardi Gras Season Without King Cake

    If you’ve never heard of king cake, don’t feel too bad. Most folks, especially those who grew up outside the Cajun belt, have never seen or tried this seasonal delicacy. For folks in and around New Orleans, however, king cake is an integral part of Mardi Gras season. Every year, untold thousands of these baked goods are fired up and shipped to the far corners of Louisiana. But how did this tradition get started?

    Early History and Religious Significance

    King cake is a seasonal delicacy that’s typically produced and shared between the Epiphany (Jan. 6, or the last of the 12 days of Christmas) until the day of Mardi Gras. The “king cake season,” or Carnival season, it effectively a bridge between the Christmas and Easter seasons, with Jan. 6 representing the official end of Christmas and Mardi Gras the day before the start of Lent.

    King cake owes its name to the Biblical “three kings,” the “wise men” who brought gifts for baby Jesus. True to this tradition, king cakes contain either a figurine or abstract representation (often a fava bean) of the baby Jesus. Many “king cake parties,” both in Louisiana and elsewhere in the Catholic world, reward (or penalize) the person who finds and consumes the representation.

    King Cake in New Orleans Culture

    Although the origins of king cake are a bit misty, the practice definitely began in Catholic Europe. Today, king cake is made and consumed in France, Portugal and other historically Catholic countries, as well as non-Catholic countries like Greece and Bulgaria. The custom made its way to Louisiana early in the state’s history, with the first officially recorded “king cake party” taking place in New Orleans in 1870. Today, it’s a nearly ubiquitous item in local bakeries during Carnival season. And king cake has even made its way into the sports world: The New Orleans Pelicans’ secondary mascot, trotted out during Carnival season, is a king cake baby.

    Variations and Recipes

    Though king cake comes in many forms, it’s generally a round, brightly colored cake with frosting swirls, embedded fruits and candies and simple depictions of religious scenes. It uses three primary colors — purple, green and gold — and possibly some secondary colors. A typical recipe includes confectioner’s sugar, butter, milk, yeast, water, brown and white sugar, salt, egg, nutmeg and cinnamon. Recently, high-end bakeries have taken to offering a more diverse array of cake options, including some with boudin sausage embedded in the flour.

    However, some enterprising bakers replace the butter with an equal amount of cottonseed oil or other healthy cooking oil. This reduces the cake’s cholesterol content without compromising flavor.

    Think you have what it takes to make a mean king cake that stands up against the best New Orleans has to offer? Even if your first cake isn’t bakery-quality, everyone has to start somewhere. So why not roll up your sleeves, bust out the creativity and try your hand at this classic cottonseed oil cake? You might just discover a talent you never knew you had.