Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. In the U.S. that day evocates New Orleans and the Carnival.
When I was a kid growing up in France, Mardi Gras had a very down-to-earth meaning.
That day eggs, milk, butter, and flour were transformed – thanks to my mother’s culinary skills – into golden crepes and crispy beignets.
My mother was especially talented at making apple beignets. On Mardi Gras, a few of my father’s friends always pretended having to stop by, only to enjoy dessert with us. While they savored the beignets, as well-behaved adults do, I stuffed my face.
Ash Wednesday would arrive soon enough.
And it marked the beginning of Lent, the leanest part of the Catholic calendar.
During the 40 days of Lent, my mother stopped baking – she also always managed to get rid of any store bought cookie just in case I would have been preparing a survival kit. That was harsh.
Want to know the harshest? My sister and I had to put in an empty jelly jar the amount of money we would have spent buying our after school croissants, pains au chocolat and other sweet stuff. Forty days worth of perfectly good French pastries!
The earned money would be then added to a local fundraising for the poor at the end of Lens.
My sister – for a mysterious masochist reason – enjoyed filling the money jar.
I hated every day of it.
But when Lent was over – 40 days later! – there stood the jelly jar filled with French francs and centimes. “You suffered to get there”, my mother said, “but there is a cost to everything. Now let’s give this money away.”
This sacrifice slash effort slash outcome was intimately linked to the way I grew up in the 70s.
Now, I’m thinking, remembering these lean days of Lent, you’re living more like it’s Fat Tuesday everyday.
And then I think, don’t be so harsh on yourself.
When it comes to writing, I have indeed never really forgotten the jelly jar.
I write painfully slash laboriously – I wish there was a predictable outcome.
And yet day after day, like the jelly jar got fuller, my Word Count fattens up.