It’s not particularly controversial to say that fried food tastes good. Let’s be honest: Would you rather sink your teeth into a golden filet of beer-battered fish or a tasteless, out-of-the-box plain filet that’s in dire need of seasoning? For most folks, the choice is clear.
But cottonseed oil’s flavor is more irresistible than most cooking oil flavor profiles. Here’s a brief look at why this is the case — and why cottonseed oil should definitely be in your cooking repertoire.
Subjective Cottonseed Oil Flavor Analyses
Believe it or not, some people make a living conducting flavor analyses of cooking oils and other culinary ingredients. (Sounds like a great job, doesn’t it?)
In a landmark study that measured the subjective flavors of cottonseed oil relative to other cooking oils, CSO came out at or close to the top on metric after metric. Participants described the oil with positive adjectives like “woody,” “nutty” and “buttery.” They were less kind to other oils, such as sunflower oil and soybean oil, using words like “painty” and “rancid” (ouch) to describe them.
When applied to popular foods, including fish and potato chips, the positive associations continued. Participants were particularly keen on the clean, neutral flavor profile of the oil, noting that it allowed the underlying flavor of the cooked food to shine through. Other oils dominated the foods’ flavors, reducing their palatability.
What Makes a Great Cooking Oil Flavor Profile?
The science of flavor is actually pretty complicated. It revolves around various families of organic molecules that either exist naturally in the oil or arise during cooking or heating. In cottonseed oil, one of the most important components of pleasant flavor is linoleic acid, a lipid that also contributes to lower levels of inflammation and boasts other health benefits. Many other oils either don’t have enough linoleic acid or have it in combination with unpleasant-tasting ingredients.
What It Means for Your Kitchen
Cottonseed oil’s attractive flavor profile is great news for your cooking habits. Compared to standbys like canola oil and soybean oil, cottonseed oil has a wider range of culinary uses: deep frying, pan-searing, baking, even drizzling on salads. Thanks to some of the same molecules that enhance its natural flavor — polyunsaturated fats like linoleic acid, for example — it’s also more stable than typical cooking oils. In fact, it’s often said that cottonseed oil mimics the rich flavor and shelf stability of hydrogenated oils without the unhealthy effects of hydrogenation.
Cottonseed Oil Gourmet?
It’s worth mentioning that some of the country’s most prominent and innovative chefs use this tasty oil on account of its unique flavor profile. In fact, cottonseed oil might be one of those rare things on which both the experts and masses agree. No matter what foods you like to make in your kitchen, cottonseed oil has a tasty answer.
How much do you know about the story of Mardi Gras? It’s pretty well-known that Mardi Gras is a part of the Christian calendar, but many folks don’t know much about Mardi Gras history and culture. That’s okay: Who wants to sit in class when there’s a party going on outside? Still, the story of Mardi Gras is pretty cool. Here’s a look at its history in 500 words or less. We promise you’ll be finished in time for a little fun!
Early American Origins
In the United States, the history of Mardi Gras actually predates the birth of the nation. In the closing years of the 17th century, an explorer named Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville led his crew up the mouth of a bayou to a point near what would become New Orleans. He happened to arrive there on Mardi Gras, so he named it Mardi Gras Point. Fitting, no?
Fast forward a few years and informal Mardi Gras celebrations were being held in communities around the Gulf Coast, including Mobile and Biloxi. The first krewe, or parade organizing society (also known as a “mystic society”) was formed in 1711 and dubbed itself the Fat Cow Society. As the years went on and the region’s population increased, Mardi Gras celebrations grew larger and more elaborate.
New Orleans Gets Serious
New Orleans was a relative latecomer to the Mardi Gras game: The first recorded parade didn’t occur there until 1837. By the mid-19th century, however, New Orleans was the undeniable capital of Mardi Gras. The city passed a number of no-nonsense ordinances organizing and institutionalizing Mardi Gras celebrations, including one that prohibited anyone from riding on a Mardi Gras parade float without a mask. And the now-ubiquitous practice of bead-throwing appears to have arisen in the city during the 1870s. Way to go, New Orleans!
Modern Mardi Gras
Today, Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the country, but its historic and cultural heart remains in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. In most places, Mardi Gras is a single day; in Cajun country, it’s an entire season that stretches from Jan. 6 to the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s also marked by a number of unique cultural signifiers: elaborate parade floats and costumes courtesy of well-organized krewes; king cake and beignets that are among the tastiest examples of cottonseed oil cooking around; and a booming tourism industry that has brought New Orleans back from the brink of death since Hurricane Katrina.
Mardi Gras is about more than beads, costumes and delicious food. It’s an integral part of the culture and identity of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. So the next time you’re participating in a Mardi Gras event, don’t forget a mental shoutout to the men and women who made this unique American event what it is today.
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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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)!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
Mardi Gras – French for “Fat Tuesday” – is upon us, and so is our Times Square photo of delicious beignets! Remember, the beignet is the official doughnut of Louisiana and a Mardi Gras staple…they don’t call it “Fat Tuesday” for nothing. Check out our beignet tips and tricks. For even more inspiration, watch our “Best Beignet” video how-tos, and be sure to visit Cotton Seed Oil.com to learn more about the oil used to make great beignets.
Blogger JPLovesCotton brings Mardi Gras flavors back home by eating foods connected to Louisiana – and there’s nothing better to consume than beignets fried in cottonseed oil – just like New Orleans legend Cafe du Monde! You can read more about cottonseed in her other post, Cotton 101: What’s Cottonseed Used For?
In our never ending journey to provide the best information on cottonseed oil, including ways to use it in cooking, we’ve announced the winner of our “Best Beignet” video contest! Click here for details.
Fat Tuesday is around the corner, and so is our announcement of the top “Best Beignet” video and winner of $5,000! In the meantime, fill up on these great demos and delectable recipes, and let the good times roll!