Writing on Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday.  In the U.S. that day evocates New Orleans, the Carnival and the King Cake.



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 managed to find a good reason to stop by, only to enjoy dessert with us. I wish I had a photo to add here. They were so beautiful and so good you would taste them, just looking at them.

Above all Mardi Gras, in my Catholic home, marked the beginning of Lent.

During forty days, my mother stopped baking – she also got rid of any store-bought cookie just in case I would have prepared a survival kit. That was harsh.

Want to know the harshest? My sister and I had to watch my mother put the amount of money she would have spent buying after- school croissants, pains au chocolat and other yummy sweets in an empty jelly jar. Forty days worth of perfectly good French pastries!

My sister – for a mysterious masochist reason – enjoyed this money jar.

I hated every day of it.

But when Lent was over, there stood the jelly jar filled with French francs and centimes. This is close to what it looked like. This one is my American change jar.



“You suffered to get there”, my mother said, “but there is a cost to everything. Now let’s give this money away.”

We always gave to a local charity for the poor.

This sacrifice/effort/outcome was intimately linked to the way I grew up.

These lean days of Lent are a memory. My current life looks more like an eternal Fat Tuesday.

However, when it comes to writing, I never really forgot the jelly jar.

I write painfully/laboriously, and I only wish there was a predictable outcome.

And yet day after day, like the jelly jar got fuller, my Word Count fattens up.

Almost religiously.


A few blog posts about Mardi Gras:

An older post about the Nice Carnaval in France chez Patricia.

And two recent posts: Solveig about Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Nicki about Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and the Chinese New Year.

Wherever you are today I wish you a Happy Mardi Gras if you celebrate.


  1. Thank you. That puts Mardi Gras into a context. I never quite got the connection before.

  2. Lent and childhood roll around somewhere in my distant memory, but I don’t think we ever took the season seriously. What a nice tradition to give the money saved by not buying goodies to charity. It speaks very well of your mother. – Curt

    • It was taken quite seriously at home as were Fridays with no meat but fish. Childhood remains so important for the rest of our lives, but probably more so for the people who left their homeland. My parents taught me a few things I didn’t like much back then and don’t sound as bad now that I also have kids. Thank you, Curt for stopping by.

  3. I don’t remember ever celebrating Mardi Gras. The day before Lent we kids were already moaning and groaning about what we had to give up, which we had to write down for our mother.

    Your mother taught you a tremendous lesson by her compassion for the less fortunate.

    • I thought that you would probably relate to the Lent period, based on what you share about your mom on your blog. Mardi Gras was never more than crepes and beignets for us. We never had costumed parties for example. In fact France wasn’t much into this festive Mardi Gras back then. Now they do celebrate much more with parties and masks and costumes. And some cities have Mardi Gras parades too.

  4. That’s a wonderful tradition. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked for different ways to appreciate Lent. I like the idea of the jar and the fact that you gave it away.

    • As we grow older we look at some traditions that sounded strange or meaningless when we were kids and make more sense as we are getting older and have our own kids. It seems to me that younger generations are returning to a more generous bunch of people, which I find extremely positive for the future of our planet. Whatever you chose to do for Lent I wish you and your family best.

  5. Behind the Story says:

    Your descriptions of all those French pastries make my mouth water. Strange to say, but when I think of French pastries, I think of Port Vila, Vanuatu. We had an excellent French bakery there and a few delightful French restaurants. (Vanuatu was a joint French/English colony before independence.)

    And thank you for the link to my blog.

    • The evocation of French food makes my mouth water very often, Nicki! I’ve heard the same comments from people who’ve lived in former French colonies. And you are welcome for the link to your blog. I like what you do there, and in fact your post reminded me that I still had time to come up with a post too. See you later on yours.

  6. Thank you Evelyne for lining to Diana’s guest post 🙂

  7. What lovely memories. Thanks for sharing about your important tradition.

  8. It must have been a difficult Lent for you to get through as a child, but what a great lesson!

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