Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco: Readings in Louisiana Culture

By Marcia Gaudet; James C. McDonald | Go to book overview

participate in the culture. Barre Toelken points out that the symbolic foods and rituals of Thanksgiving serve as symbols of unity, with others and with the past. 15 The King Cake has a similar function. Rather than a symbol of ethnic identity, the King Cake seems to be a symbol of participation in cultural festivities with which the participants identify.

Much has been written on the importance of ethnic foodways as symbols of identity. Janet Theophano, in writing about Greek festival foods, sees festival and holiday food as especially important in creating bonds between members of a group, both past and present. 16 With a food custom so closely associated with a cultural festival or tradition with which one has strong ties, this function of symbol and identity works even if the form of the food itself is not genuinely traditional, such as the case of the New Orleans King Cake in the Acadiana area of southwest Louisiana, and even if the cultural group with which one is identifying includes more than one's own more limited ethnic group identity as a Cajun. The New Orleans King Cake among the Cajuns symbolically ties them with the New Orleans-based non-Cajun French culture in Louisiana. In addition, it perhaps shows a reciprocal side of the relatively new found acceptance of the Cajuns and the Cajun culture by people in the New Orleans area, who now, rather than denigrating the Cajuns, are emphasizing their cultural links and shared French heritage.


Notes
1
Traditionally, the eve of the Epiphany is called Twelfth Night and the Epiphany (January 6) is Twelfth Day. In Louisiana today, January 6 is typically celebrated as Twelfth Night.
2
George J. Reinecke, “The New Orleans Twelfth Night Cake, ” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2:1 (April 1965), pp. 45–47.
3
Reinecke, p. 52.
4
Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Feast Day Cakes from Many Lands (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1960), p. 17.
5
Dorothy Gladys Spicer, The Book of Festivals (The Woman's Press, 1937), pp. 132, 225, 266.
6
Thomas Hale, “The Kings' Cake Custom in Mobile, Alabama, ” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2:4 (August 1968), p. 104.
7
Reinecke, pp. 45–46, quoting from Prosper Montagne, Larousse Gastronomique (New York: Crown, 1961).

-57-

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Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco: Readings in Louisiana Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco - An Introduction to Louisiana Culture vii
  • Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco 1
  • 1 - Who's Fooling Whom? 3
  • References 14
  • 2 - Buffalo Bill and the Mardi Gras Indians 16
  • 3 - Worldview, Social Tension, and Carnival in New Orleans 26
  • Notes 40
  • 4 - Mardi Gras Chase 42
  • 5 - The New Orleans King Cake in Southwest Louisiana 48
  • Notes 57
  • 6 - Tradition and Innovation 59
  • References 69
  • 7 - The Creole Tradition 71
  • 8 - The Houmas Speak 80
  • 9 - Some Accounts of Witch Riding 89
  • Notes 101
  • 10 - Folk Veneration Among the Cajuns 103
  • Reference 120
  • 11 - Anti-Clerical Humor in French Louisiana 123
  • Notes 132
  • 12 - Cajuns and Crawfish in South Louisiana 134
  • Notes 148
  • 13 - Is It Cajun, or is It Creole? 150
  • Suggestions for Further Reading on Louisiana Culture 154
  • Notes on Contributors 156
  • Questions and Topics for Classroom Discussion and Writing Assignments 158
  • Index 171
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