Today is Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday.” It is the last day of the Carnival season and always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Not being religious, I think of Mardi Gras as a celebration in New Orleans.
I have never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I am sure I am missing out on a lot. My niece is now in college there so maybe one day I will attend Mardi Gras. I like Nola and have had very interesting trips there with the Society of Wine Educators conferences through the years.
The Muffaletta is a delicious slice of Italy that is an integral part of the Crescent City’s food traditions. Local lore is that the Muffaletta was created at the Italian run Central Grocery on Decatur St in the French Quarter in 1906. The store still sells Muffalettas and many say they are the best in town. The sandwich as you can see is huge and has a variety of cold cuts and cheeses topped with olive salad. While not slimming, it is an incredibly satisfying meal. Sharing is the way to go with this gigantic treat.
Not having had the original, I can only attest to the merits of the Muffaletta I had which was from Cafe Beignet but next time I am in New Orleans, I intend to do some comparison shopping. I had water with my Muffaletta but had I had the opportunity, I think I might have opted for a glass of wine.
The history of Italians in New Orleans is very involved. Scores of Italians began moving to New Orleans in the late 1880s, mostly from Sicily. Often they worked in the food trade. They contributed to the city in a huge variety of ways and their history is celebrated in a local museum. Among the lasting achievements is a yearly celebration of St. Joseph. Sadly, the history of Italians in New Orleans is also rife with examples of prejudice and a terrible event that happened in 1891, the lynching of 11 Italians. I had no idea about this sad episode in American life before doing some research. To be honest, I also had never heard of a muffaletta. I don’t think I will be forgetting either in the near term. For more information on Italians in New Orleans, go to the Museum’s website.
As this is a wine blog, I want to mention a great wine resource in New Orleans, the Wine Institute New Orleans W.I.N.O. It’s a wonderful resource for the wine community.