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Gumbo is for Mardi Gras [Feb. 22nd, 2012|05:36 am]
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We’re in Baton Rouge for Mardi Gras. It’s a get together of friends that has been going on for… eight years now? Maybe nine? We’ve been coming, off and on, for eight years anyway. I remember because the first year we came (2005), the Eagles were in the Super Bowl. And the Super Bowl was going to be on the same night that we were planning to go to New Orleans to see the parades. I was really, really torn whether to go or stay back at the hotel and watch the game. Our hosts found out about my dilemma and went out and borrowed a mini-TV and I watched the game and the parade at the same time. That’s pretty much the way they are, the folks we come to meet. Above and beyond the call for people they’d only met online up till then.

We met in Everquest, the very first MMORPG I ever played. We’re still playing together all these years later, in SWTOR now and in the same guild at long last.

It’s like coming home, coming here every year. We actually don’t go to see many parades anymore, just one or two over the long weekend. We all have all the beads we can handle, tucked into drawers and looped over coatracks, saved for this weekend. We have more fun hanging out in the garage, some of us playing the latest game, looking up from time to time to hear the wisecracks from the folks shooting the breeze. There’s a lot of laughter and snarky humor and friendly arguments about gaming or whatever. We eat at favorite restaurants, the same places every year. Gotta go to Frank’s, Sonny’s, Nagoya! There’s some really amazing cooking from folks who treat it as an avocation; at least a couple of meals with all of us sitting around tables in the garage, savoring some of the best food I’ve ever had.

And there’s always the gumbo. Last year, they suggested that we were maybe tired of gumbo and they could make something else. There was a rousing chorus of protest. And we out-of-towners, the folks who flew in from Finland or drove from all over the US, had to explain to the locals that for us, gumbo isn’t something that you can get every day. We’re not tired of it! In fact, most of us only eat it once a year. It’s one of the traditions that we cherish about this weekend; on Saturday or Sunday out comes the big pot, steaming over the propane burner, and the rice, and the potato salad (Potato salad in gumbo is one of those regional things, which we out-of-towners try and secretly find weird as heck – or in this crowd, vocally find weird as heck.)

Gumbo is for Mardi Gras. I’ve talked before about the fact that this lifestyle limits the foods I am willing to eat. Having had cheesesteaks in Philly and etouffee in Lafayette, I’m not going to order those dishes outside of those towns. It wouldn’t be the same; no chance it would be nearly as good. And gumbo goes beyond that. It’s all wrapped up in this weekend, these people. I can’t have gumbo anywhere else; my friends, my family in Baton Rouge, wouldn’t be there with me and it couldn’t possibly be any good without them to season the broth.