Today there is a good chance that you will eat cake, pancakes, waffles, or maybe donuts. But do you know why?
Mardi Gras (literally translated from French as Fat Tuesday) is a holiday steeped in Christian tradition, during which Christians ate foods cooked in some form of fat one last time before the 40 days of fasting for Lent which ends on Easter.
Being the last day that these folks were supposed to eat fat before Ash Wednesday, someone must have realized that an assortment of sweet and flour-based foods are pretty much always the way to go.
We're not exactly sure if all the alcohol consumed in New Orleans on Mardi Gras is also considered a type of fat, but regardless it's become a staple of the holiday here in the US. Still, the true king of Mardi Gras is, you guessed it, the King Cake. If you haven't tried this glorious cake, now's the time.
This year, the yearly festivities have had to be reinvented due to COVID but normally the streets of New Orleans are one of a kind on Fat Tuesday. Some may find the crowd overwhelming, but it's worth experiencing once this pandemic is behind us. If you're just not one for giant crowds, then you can still find some pretty great deals on a trip to New Orleans during other times of the year.
In France, Fat Tuesday is normally a very festive day during which children dress up and march through the streets. Many cities (in non-pandemic times) organize Carnival celebrations across the country. The most well-known are the Carnival of Nice and the Carnival of Dunkirk. Crêpes are the staple of Fat Tuesday in France.
Italians celebrate Carnival on Fat Tuesday. While many cities are adorned with colors and lights for the occasion, the most famous Carnival in Italy is the one in Venice, which usually attracts thousands of foreign travelers.
Just like everywhere else, Italy's got their preferred food for the occasion. They eat Chiacchiere, which are essentially small fried donuts covered with powdered sugar.
In Scandinavian countries, Fat Tuesday mostly just entails eating a traditional pastry traditional called a Fastelavnbolle. It is a round brioche filled with a sweet cream as seen below. Interestingly, Scandinavians decidedly save pancakes for just about any other day of the year.
Similar to France, the UK eats thin pancakes on Fat Tuesday. The main difference is that the UK eats A LOT of pancakes on Fat Tuesday and makes a slightly eccentric game out of it. In parts of the country they have a race in which the competitors simultaneously cook pancakes while running back and forth. We'd probably stick a good 15 feet back to watch it, but it does look like an experience.
An article on Fat Tuesday is just not complete if it doesn't mention Brazil. Practically everyone has seen these incredible images of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. Carnaval features plenty of fried foods, but the main things are parades and the endless, merciless competition between samba groups.