Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Indulgence and Penitence Envy: But I'm Not Giving Up a Thing, Are You?

Our harried server dumped a bucketload of beads on our table.
In my zeal to celebrate all holidays--even those that don't have ostensibly to do with me or are not part of any cultural tradition I grew up in (Diwali, anyone?)--I was determined (almost as if someone would prevent me from doing so) to observe Mardi Gras tonight with the kids.

It took me well into adulthood to be consciously aware that Mardi Gras is really part of the Catholic Calendar--a night of revelry and over-indulgence which kicks off the Lenten Season, the long stretch of denial and penitence and tightness (if you will--am I getting this right?), leading up to Easter Week and eventually Easter morning (when you can re-indulge in your sugar, cigs, pickles, Facebook, again).  Mormonism has none of these rhythms and it's really a shame.  Because what is a year without cycles and rhythms, indulgence and penitence?  Just an endless succession of days?   And the fact that I grew up a Mormon in a low desert meant that I not only lacked the rhythms that the many Catholics around me had, what with their extended Christmas season and Lent (getting ashed on the day after Mardi Gras--not fair!), but I also could not look forward to any significant change in the seasons.  But that's another not so interesting story.

Anyway, this year I planned several days ahead.  I had a family lined up to meet us at a restaurant, and the mom suggested the tiny Cajun-themed Great Jones Cafe, which she hadn't been to since the '80s.  We arrived at six sharp and not a moment too soon, because by 6:30 the place was packed with the bar four deep with bodies.  

(It's actually harder than you might think to find a kid-friendly place to celebrate Mardi Gras without a fat cover.)

But we had a table for five!  (I am beyond dorky that I take so much pleasure in avoiding a wait.)

As we were pleasantly jostled in our seats by passing bodies, my friend and I ordered, over the cajun music in the background, jambalaya that came with jalapeno cornbread; the girls got burgers.  We tentatively asked for beads and the server dumped two luxurious handfuls on our table.  For dessert, we had key lime pie and chocolate pudding, although traditional king cafe was available.  

And now we are home listening to Amy Winehouse, natch.  I've been sitting here wondering about my love of holidays.  It it the obvious?--that it gives one license for a bit of escape?  That one's place doesn't feel so tight anymore, if only for a day?  

Do you observe Fat Tuesday and Lent?  I'm all ears.

The menu's on the wall!  CRAZY!

Everything went as planned!


  1. Oh yes, absolutely I *DO* celebrate Lent! It's such a great way to establish a new habit – 40 days (plus Sundays, which officially don't count toward the total) is the perfect amount of time to practice. This year my focus is on getting my food and exercise habits back into the realm of the reasonable, after a few months of overwork and under-nutrition. As for Fat Tuesday, I might have a little ice cream before bed tonight ... And starting tomorrow, it's seaweed smoothies & kale til Easter! What's YOUR plan for Lent 2012? XO, T.

    1. julie, your night looks so fun! (we had dinner at chuck-a-rama--cecily's choice--for her b-day, but alas no cajun food anywhere on the buffet). i need to get sassier with my holidays. i get too much of an eyeore vibe. you're inspiring me.

      and. . . i can TOTALLY relate to the jealousy of both catholicism and seasons in my also mormon also arizona upbringing. i got a whole lot to say on those subjects. maybe we need to do a joint post on that.

  2. i meant to say: great post! gonna go listen me some amy winehouse now. maybe dr. john?

  3. i remember my folks would always try to give up something for lent. it was too much trouble for all six kids to get on board with that, though. happy ash wednesday, jt!