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It’s no secret around my office that I’m in the middle of rewriting a quickie guide to Jewish food. I have to pare down an encyclopedic 3,000 word monster of an anthropological study into something people can use. We are still discussing whether anyone needs to know about calves’ foot jelly.
So I took a little internet research side-trip to learn about the foods associated with today’s holiday. No, it’s not a Jewish holiday as far as I know! Today is Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. It’s a day on which Roman Catholics have traditionally eaten a lot of goodies in anticipation of a solemn season of prayer and self-deprivation before Easter. Some called it Carnival because it was the last day they ate meat before not having any for 40 days. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which starts Lent.
One traditional food in the United States is the King Cake that people in New Orleans share as part of Mardi Gras. Back in France they make a gallete de rois that’s frangipane (almond paste) and puff pastry, but here in the US it’s more like a giant cinnamon roll with colored sugar on top. I’ve never had this cake and now I really want to make one! Like a lot of Americans, I have a place in my heart for New Orleans because it’s the cradle of jazz and because of the terrible damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. I’ve never been there, but my husband has been several times and took amazing photographs, some of which are on his Flickr page. (He took the one at right, too.)
I also found a traditional Irish pancake recipe that sounds great. Though I suppose if you’re in an interfaith family you could also eat cheese blintzes as your pre-fast blow out. Or both! I wonder if I could raise a lot of money for our organization if I put together an interfaith family cookbook. Or sold pancakes through the internet.
I didn’t learn a lot about Catholicism growing up, beyond what was important to my interest in European history and art. What I did learn was mainly the technical theological and doctrinal stuff. It has been an important benefit to me in adulthood to get to know Catholics and learn about their actual religious practice. Learning about the ways Judaism and Catholicism are similar and different has helped me to feel closer to actual people, and that can only be good.
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