The polar vortex may have kept our growing season at bay, but it did conveniently make the Super Sunday parade fall during the New Orleans Mash tour, which for me is an acceptable trade off. The Mardi Gras Indians took to the streets, second line bands behind them, dancing their way through throngs of onlookers in their dazzling suits. For the second year in a row I have had the pleasure of being one of the many spectators in this brilliant showing of African American tradition mixed with Native American culture. Big Chiefs, Spy Boys, Wild Men, musicians, hundreds of suit clad children, and thousands of onlookers made up the procession. There may not be another Sunday tradition as interesting and dynamic as this one. the history of the Mardi Gras Indians can be traced back as far as the 1850′s, and what was once a bloody and violent gang like encounter has now become a peaceful and music filled day of wonder.
The parade ebbed and flowed like a snake almost oscillating, with an energy that was palpable. A few drinks didn’t hurt, as I grooved my way through the excitement snapping photos and screaming encouragement, as mothers, children and even big chiefs chanted along the parade route with a mix of shit talking and poetic hymns, lost in a cloud of barbecue smoke. Food vendors line the streets running the gambit form makeshift grills to full rigs with huge smokers bellowing. Hot oil bubbles away as fish and shrimp get fried on their way to meet open buns smothered with all the po-boy fixings.
The craftsmen, showmanship, focus and dedication at this event is unmatched. A desolate neighborhood becomes a cultural melting pot, a beautiful mix of races, socio-economic classes and smiling faces all coming together to honor and celebrate a rich history that is as distinctly New Orleanian as the crawfish boil. The links between the food culture of New Orleans and the rich history of the Mardi Gras Indians is ripe with similarities. New Orleans is famous for its mix of indigenous flavors and dishes combined with the techniques ingredients and traditions of those that colonized, settled, and became a part of the social fabric of this dynamic city. There is nowhere else in the United States where so many cultures mix together to form such a strong, proud and unique identity. Music, food and good spirits run through this city like the rivers and bayous that contribute to its rich food heritage. This liquor town is slowly becoming a craft beer haven as more and more attention is being paid to the practice of good beer. And if this attention is anything like the concentration it takes to build a Mardi Gras Indian suit, then bead by bead we will see a vibrant craft beer culture develop over the next few years, with all the gallantry and frills fit for a Big Chief.