When Zulu rolls, no throw in New Orleans is more coveted than its coconuts. Muses has its gloriously glittery shoes, and Nyx has splendid handbags to hand out to lucky revelers along its route.
But when the Krewe of Lafcadio hits the streets of the French Quarter this Saturday (Feb. 10), the prized throw is a wooden kitchen spoon.
If Carnival is a pageant of over-the-top, only-in-New-Orleans moments, the Krewe of Lafcadio is a smaller but no less intrinsic example of the spirit, one that draws from Mardi Gras history, literature and cuisine in equal measure.
The parade is named for Lafcadio Hearn, a writer who documented New Orleans culture in the 19th century and published a seminal Creole cookbook in 1885. Its monarchs are not celebrities or society mavens, but instead represent the city’s culinary heritage and restaurant culture.
“What’s Mardi Gras but a celebration of fine living, which New Orleans is all about, and also satirizing the dysfunctional aspects of living here,” said John Kelly, the local computer scientist who formed the Krewe of Lafcadio in 2012 and serves as its captain. “That’s what this is all about.”
Arnaud’s chef Tommy DiGiovanni is the krewe’s king this year. His dukes for the parade are Charles Abbyad, the omnipresent head maitre d’ at Arnaud’s for 35 years, and Chris Hannah, head bartender of the restaurant’s acclaimed French 75 Bar.
“We didn’t want to honor celebrities or out-of-town chefs, we wanted to celebrate the people who make New Orleans the great place it is,” Kelly said.
They’ll lead a pair of brass bands, a contingent of opera singers and 100 or so costumed marching members through the French Quarter. Some marchers don food-themed costumes, from the vegetables of the Creole “trinity” to Zapp’s potato chip wrappers, and others are organized in groups like the sous chef brigade or Hostess Cupcake Brigade.
The parade is also a fundraiser, using membership dues and other contributions to support a Navy League program that sends New Orleans chefs to prepare meals for the crews aboard the USS Louisiana and USS New Orleans, two warships based on the West Coast.
Arnaud’s has been getting a lot of attention lately. Celebrations for its centennial are on the horizon this year, and in 2017 the bar Hannah leads here won the James Beard Foundation’s national award for Outstanding Bar Program.
The honor the Arnaud’s crew shares on Saturday is a little more particular to New Orleans, and it will be heralded by crowds in the French Quarter streets eagerly chanting for wooden spoons.
The Krewe of Lafcadio begins at 2 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Antoine’s Restaurant (713 St. Louis St.), wends through the French Quarter and disbands near the restaurant.
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Hearn’s “La Cuisine Creole,” was published in 1885.
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