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There's only one more Monday until Fat Tuesday, y'all, and we've got so much more to tell you about. Today we're focusing on the K's of Mardi Gras: King Cakes and Krewes. While King Cakes are quite plentiful in South Louisiana, we know those of you in other states may not see them stacked up at the grocery store. Don't fret. Many bakeries, like Ambrosia in Baton Rouge, Keller's in Lafayette and Randazzo's in New Orleans, ship all over the country. Or you can bake your own cake. Last year, we used Tina's Cajun Creations' "King Cake Mix," which comes complete with a baby, icing mix and purple, green and gold sugars, as well as instructions for making the cake in a bread machine. New Orleans Chef John Besh also has a recipe you can try at home. Now, for the attire, because you'll need something to wear when you serve that King Cake! Check out Cypress Tees' "I Got the Baby!" shirts and rompers. Adult and kids' shirts come in dark heather gray with a purple, green and gold design of a cake and baby, and rompers for ages 6-24 months are available in white. Full disclosure: Cypress Tees is

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The 2011 Academy Awards air tonight, and we've compiled a few menu ideas to help you watch Southern style. Just click on the links for recipes! Appetizers & Drinks Winter's Bone "Hush" Puppies Pimento Cheese Sandwiches "For the Kids" "Social Network" Caramel Appletinis Main Course Shrimp & "True Grits" Dessert King's Cake (with a speech if the spirit moves; pick up a King Cake at your local grocer or bakery) White & Black "Swan" Mississippi Mud Bars

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Last year when we heard about Mobile, Alabama-based Keyhole Photo and husband and wife team Meggan and Jeff Haller's Mardi Gras photography project, we gave them a call to find out more. They decided to start documenting the festivities — Mobile is credited with holding the first official Mardi Gras in 1703 — a few years before by attending parades, pageants, balls and a few of the more secret happenings around the city. Meggan says this year will be no different and agreed to share a few more photos with us. "We are still just chipping away at the project little by little, and I think this year's Mardi Gras is going to present us some wonderful opportunities," she said by e-mail from Mobile. "Everyone has their own Mardi Gras traditions — that's what the celebration is about — and we always welcome suggestions." Keyhole Photo's Mardi Gras Project pics can be viewed in the "Bon Temps" gallery on their website and in our photo essay from last year. The Hallers ask that groups with annual traditions, secrets, after-parties and general Mardi Gras stories to tell contact them through their site. To find out more about Mobile Mardi Gras and

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by Erin Z. Bass Louisiana's capital city of Baton Rouge held its first-annual King Cake Tasteoff last night at Hollywood Casino. It all started on Twelfth Night, when Visit Baton Rouge asked its Facebook fans to share their favorite place for King Cake in the city. The heated conversation then moved to Twitter, where follower @lynseydesign put together a map of King Cake locations. From there, a competition began to take shape, culminating in last night's event with 17 local businesses participating, and local blog Bite and Booze helping present as part of its "Bite Club." With claims to fame on Mardi Gras often going to New Orleans, President and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge Paul Arrigo explained Baton Rouge's role this way: "Mardi Gras does not belong to one city in the state," he said. "As a state capital, we get to share Mardi Gras too!" Categories were split into traditional King Cake (must have cake, icing and possibly a filling) and non-traditional King Cake-flavored items, which ranged from coffee to cake balls and even soap. As a judge, my job was to taste them all and rate each one on taste, texture and presentation. Going in, I knew I preferred

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by Frederick Charles Melancon “And then, she cheeked me.” “Cheeked you? What does that mean?” Gabe asked as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. Louis put the shovel down against the huge oak tree with ancient meandering branches as he thought. “Well,” he finally began, “We had a great night. We were outside her front door. She was smiling. I thought that now was the time for a first kiss, and when I went in for the kiss she turned her head. And I kissed her cheek instead of her lips. That has never happened to me before.” Gabe shook his head knowingly. “One time I kissed a girl, and she slapped me.” “So what did you do?” “What do you mean what did I do? I didn’t kiss her again that was for sure. And I think you could use that advice.” “But we had such a good time,” Louis protested. “But did she kiss you back? No. So you need to move on.” Gabe all of a sudden pointed at the sign on the ground. “It is just like the story on that sign and the whole reason we are sweating our butts off out here moving this sign: to keep people from touching something

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In South Louisiana, the real Mardi Gras action takes place in the countryside. The courir de Mardi Gras celebrations in the countryside of South Louisiana give the popular phrase, “Throw Me Something Mister,” a whole new meaning. Dressed in colorful, homemade costumes with pointed hats and masks, participants in the courir, which means "run" in French, beg for things other than beads or doubloons. What they want are ingredients for a communal gumbo. Mardi Gras in towns like Eunice, Iota and Mamou include participants on horseback or in flatbed trailers riding from house to house begging for chickens, rice and other food items for the gumbo to be made later in the day. Most communities say their runs have been around as long as they can remember and have medieval roots. Historian and head of UL Lafayette's Folklore Department Barry Ancelet says, “In a nutshell, the country Mardi Gras comes from the way Mardi Gras was celebrated in France in the rural section as opposed to the urban carnival. It’s an early springtime renewal and is essentially a way for communities to celebrate and find themselves.” Costumes conceal participants’ identity and allow them to parody roles in authority - men to dress like

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Maria Martin on John James Audubon in honor of Maria Martin, 1796-1863 by Fred Bassett If you know the gentleman well, you know he beguiled a few days here in Charleston with the Reverend BachmanC this commodious house already chocked to the cracks with children, wife, and me. Oh, that Mr. Audubon had the run of the place. And joyful fire to set a woman'ss heart ablaze, not that you would ever imagine such from the visage I see in the mirror. Most days, the two men were afield, searching for some good feathers to skin and re-stuff for the painter's eye. I lived my days in the background, so I was happy to paint that for him. Beyond Charleston, I doubt anyone has ever heard my name. Even here, few know my hands painted the franklinia in his rendering of Bachman's warbler. You wouldn't know this either, but I painted the rare pair, first and just for him, after he had gone back North without ever laying eyes on them. In truth, I am the background, waiting for him to perch the prize in my branches, male above the female, just as I knew he would. This poem was inspired by the author's thoughts on John James Audubon's stay with the Rev. Bachman of Charleston, South Carolina, where the naturalist met the Rev.'s sister-in-law, Maria Martin, in the 1830s. A watercolor

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by Erin Z. Bass Two years ago, Donnie Bulliard started hosting suppers to get his Charleston friends interested in starting a Mardi Gras krewe. A native of St. Martinville, Louisiana, he hoped to persuade them with the Cajun food like gumbo and crawfish etouffee he grew up eating. People came and ate, but nobody joined his krewe. Summer came, and Bulliard found himself catering a party on Kiawah Island. (He also teaches cooking classes through Cajun Kitchen.) He spotted a girl dancing and thought to himself: "That's our queen for Mardi Gras." She turned out to be Joya Darby Wolf and accepted Bulliard's offer of queendom. That's her pictured on the right with Bulliard in the center. And that's how the Krewe of Charleston was born. The only Mardi Gras krewe on the Atlantic Coast, Charleston's krewe held its first ball with close to 5,000 people in attendance. Now, the krewe is preparing for its second-annual Grand Ball Masque on February 12 at the Mariott in downtown Charleston. With former first lady of South Carolina Jenny Sullivan Sanford and New York businessman and Charleston resident John McAvoy serving as this year's royalty, the ball is expected to sell out by the end

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by Donna Smith Fee I left him in the oven with his feet sticking out like a turkey too big for the pan. Giggling at the thought of Hansel and Gretel and the nibbled house of sweets, I felt like a good witch. Driving south on 441 from Athens, Georgia, I matched my breathing to Naomi’s slow deep breaths. Roommates at the University of Georgia twenty-plus years ago, she and I had always gotten each other into and out of trouble. I wasn’t sure who was in more trouble this time. Me, for pushing her husband into his bakery’s oven, or her, for leaving the hospital despite her broken ribs, miscarriage, facial contusions and I.V. drip. “What?” she looked so weak in her hospital gown and stolen scrubs. “It is just a little funny. A baked baker.” “What if he’s dead? How am I going to explain that?” Naomi sought the order in things, looking for the whys. I mostly struggled with the why-nots. We slowed down as we passed through Madison with its streets lined with antebellum homes supporting fabulous porches and Boston ferns bigger than tubas. The town claimed they were too beautiful for Sherman to burn on his march to the sea. “He

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