It’s Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – the annual free-for all before the period of deprivation that Catholics call Lent. Today on Word of Mouth, the social and musical history of Mardi Gras, beginning where it was first celebrated in America: Mobile, Alabama. We speak to a filmmaker who reveals that the holiday remains a segregated celebration.
Then we head to the epicenter of American Carnival: New Orleans. Longtime NPR reporter, native New-Orleanian, and music aficionado Gwen Thompkins shares her essential Mardi Gras play list with us.
Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.
Filling semlor with sweet almond paste requires great concentration from Astrid Foster, age 7. Get the recipe for <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/02/16/146985466/swedish-fat-tuesday-delicacy-kept-alive-in-portland#147040528">semlor</a>.
Credit Deena Prichep / NPR
Clara Peterson, 5, and Pia Patrikson, 6, take turns whipping cream by hand.
Back when refrigeration wasn't up to modern standards, Fat Tuesday was a time to clear your house of indulgent foods. This led to lots of rich recipes, from Shrove pancakes to King Cake. In Sweden, the specialty is semlor. A group of people in Portland, Ore., are keeping that dish — and a few other Swedish traditions — alive.
Picture soft, sweet rolls, sort of like brioche, piled with creamy almond filling. Now picture them being made by a room full of young, mostly blond children speaking Swedish.