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Boudin and King Cake and Feast!

mardi gras boudain bite One early morning in Monterey, California, I walked into my Russian Language classroom at the Defense Language Institute and was greeted with a most surprising smell. "Get over here an' tear you off a hunk of boooo-dan!" Sargent Lyles he shouted in his heavy cajun accent that applied equally to the Russian we were learning.

"What's that?" I mumbled, tired.

"Boudin! Sausage!" he replied, shoving a piece of hot meat on crusty bread into my hands.

I didn't expect or wish for juicy spicy sausage at 0600, but I couldn't help but love the foodie enthusiasm of 'the Cajuns', as we affectionately called Lyles and his good friend Lieutenant Eaves. Lyles and Eaves surprised myself and our fellow soldiers regularly with their experience with all realms of the real world. They recommended a 50/50 mix of Round-up and diesel fuel to remove weeds (effective, if not environmentally conscious), volunteered and knew precisely how to install a fence on a slope, and showed up to potluck meals with home-cooked Southern classics.

I will never forget their retelling of Mardi Gras in backwoods Louisiana.

Men dress in garish costumes and begin drinking early in the day. After parades, if there were any, they climb onto their horses. Next, they journey from house to house on a 'stone soup'-like tradition that seems to have mutated over the years. Instead of collecting usable contributions to a community pot of gumbo, households throw pieces of raw chicken at the drunk, costumed horse riders. Eaves and Lyles were proud enough of the insane but ancient Courir de Mardi Gras to show video of their band of drunken men in chicken-juice-stained colorful clothes.

-Alex's story, written by Rachel

raw boudain sausage

Every year around this time, we reminiscence about The Cajuns and cook a Louisiana-inspired meal. This year we made boudin, a pork and rice sausage flavored with peppers and garlic. We used Emeril's recipe. Unlike any other of the many batches of sausages we've made, this sausage is stuffed with cooked meat. It is then poached in hot water for service.

We spiced our boudin mildly in the hopes that our child diners would eat it. (Only the youngest ate more than a cursory bite.) To replicate the heat that Alex remembers, I created a spicy aioli to spread on crusty bread slices. Topped with boudin and pickled onions, this combination was indulgent, just right for the spirit of Mardi Gras.

mardi gras masked Lil

The rest of dinner with friends included masks, shrimp etouffee, maque choux, and Abita beer.

mardi gras king cake

Dessert had to be king cake. The lemon flavored dough rose slowly and steadily, baked to a golden brown and tasted rich. I found the charm (not having a baby Jesus figure, we substituted an Easter bunny) so I will gladly bake a king cake again next year.

Lyles and Eaves, wherever you are, we hope you are celebrating Mardi Gras in style today. Laissez les bons temps rouler!