Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mirliton Festival


     Saturday, November 5th, we went to the Mirliton Festival in Bywater.  I thought it was something new, but apparently it has been in existence for twenty-two years.  We stumbled across it when we, J and I, were out hitting "garage" sales.  For those who are familiar with Bywater it's a bit funny because the neighborhood is chock full of shotgun houses that are practically sitting on top of one another and there are probably six garages in the entire neighborhood.  It was more like stoop sales.

     We had just purchased the top part of a buffet and were heading back to the house when we discovered this festival celebrating what is basically a bland squash that was going to be the .  Back in the day I remember everyone had a mirliton vine in their back yard.  Anyways, we scored some music, beer and a stuffed mirliton from Jack Dempsy's, which made for a nice side trip for the day.

I kinda regret not getting the cook book. : (

J and his stuffed mirliton and Abita Amber.

NOLA fashionistas.  Love the variety of styles!!

Stuffed Mirliton Recipe  

6 mirlitons                              1/4c parsley                               1/2 - 1 lb of small shrimp
1c onion                                 1 1/2 c Italian bread crumbs       butter or olive oil
1c celery                                2 eggs                                         2tbs of chopped garlic
1/2 c shallots/green onion      salt and pepper to taste               1/4 c Italian bread crumbs & 1/4 c          
                                                                                                 parmesan cheese mixed together

Boil mirlitons for about 15-30 min.  You should be able to easily stick a tooth pic or fork in one.  Cool.  Cut in halves; remove seeds.  Carefully scoop out mirlitons; set aside skins for stuffing later.  Saute chopped shallots, onion and celery in a bit of butter or olive oil on medium high heat for about six minutes then add 1tbs of garlic and parsley and cook for two more minutes and then set aside.  Lightly saute shrimp in butter or olive oil if you are trying to be healthy and 1tbs of garlic, (no longer than 3 min.).  Use a potato masher and mash up mirliton innards in a large bowl and then stir in the onion mixture, shrimp, beaten eggs, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture into the mirliton shells.  Sprinkle top with cheese/breadcrumb mixture.  Place a pat of butter on each mirliton half and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

     A couple of notes on this recipe:  I go heavy on the butter and garlic on this and so I reduced the amounts, but if y'all are feeling all garlicy go for it.  I also suggest olive oil if you are concerned about that butter thing.  In all honesty, I do this one for holidays so I use the butter.  You can also opt out on the shrimp, I understand that shrimp is expensive in other parts, but really, what New Orleans native is going to skip out on the shrimp?  Oh, and to make it all fancy, I garnish with a garlic/butter sauteed jumbo shrimp on top.  You can also just go ahead and do this as a casserole instead of trying to stuff those flimsy mirliton shells, sort of like instead of doing all those artichoke balls you just say, "aw heck I'll just do the casserole."

Additional link:

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Orleans Burials

Wishing a peaceful Veterans Day for our heros!  RIP Dad, I'm thinking of you, my favorite veteran.

     Well I was going to post about our trip to the Mirliton Festival, but Birdie asked about the practice of tomb burial in New Orleans.  And of course I love to talk about my home town, so I am more than happy to blather on about our "Cities of the Dead."  So you want the gory details, lol?  Here goes...
This is the inside of a tomb.  They are also called "ovens."
You can see the bottom casket in this tomb would rest on these wire supports.

     Basically a tomb is constructed so that the casket lies on a shelf or slats, or some sort of support which rests about six inches to a foot above the ground.   The shelf/slats/some sort of support has an area that is open to the ground in the back of the tomb.  Our family tomb has a cement shelf with an opening in the back of the tomb.  The casket of the previous occupant is taken out of the tomb and destroyed.  The remains are from what I understand, crushed and placed in a small container, either a bag or a small cardboard box, and pushed to the back of the tomb where it falls to the ground below.  The new casket with the remains are then placed on the shelf over the older remains.

Wooden caskets please!

     There are two things to note about this kind of burial:  First, you must wait a year and a day before you can remove a casket and use that space again.  You have to let the body decompose before you can remove it from the coffin.  So what do you do if you have to wait for someone to decompose?  The cemetery has temporary holding spots that you can use.  Second, you cannot use a metal coffin.  The coffins are destroyed and I imagine, (gonna be gross here so stop reading if you are squeamish), that the metal doesn't allow for the draining of bodily fluids like the wooden ones do and the wood will eventually break down unlike the metal.  Both of these stipulations are Louisiana law.

Too crowded?

     Do tombs get full?  Well, yes and no.  Because the remains are crushed and are dropped to the back of the tomb they continue to decompose so there is plenty of room down there for a lot of people, so some tombs have been used for centuries.  The main problem is where do you put all those names?  Names are placed on the front of the tomb on a granite or marble door/marker.  Once the "door" is full of names, it is moved to the side of the tomb.  I've seen tombs that are covered with these marker/doors.  I once asked Dad what they did when there was no more room and he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess you get a new tomb."

Who owns the tomb?

     Who owns the tomb and decides who is buried in them?  Tombs are like little houses and you own them just like houses.  When you buy a tomb you get a deed and that deed has to be presented when you go to use the tomb.  I can't tell you what other families do, but I can tell you that for our little tomb the deed is handed over to the person who needs to use it at the time.  If there is a family rift, (not that we have one), and the person with the deed doesn't want to hand it over, you do have a back up plan.  Basically, if you are a direct descendant of the person who originally purchased the tomb, you have a right to the deed and can get a copy of the deed issued to you by obtaining a form that says you are a direct descendant from the cemetery/funeral home and having a notary affirm your statement is true.  I learned after we lost the deed in Katrina and I had to go get another copy.

     People do get cremated and are placed in tombs.  We did this just last year with my father-in-law.  Yes people are embalmed so that there can be the viewing of the body, wake, etc., but in the NOLA heat and humidity, bodies don't last long, remember that year and a day thing.  

     Why above ground?   Some will tell you that it's because of the high water table, but in all honesty we have to look at our Mother County, France.  The French buried their loved ones this way, as well as Spain, and we just continued the tradition.

Here is a link that basically explains what I just said if y'all want to check it out: http://www.neworleansancestry.com/February2009.html

PS for locals:  I don't know why, but I am fascinated with our 610 Stompers, (it's like a SNL skit in a parade).  It seems that they are heading out to New York for the Macy's Thanksgiving and they are looking for your support tonight, 11-11-11 at the Howlin' Wolf!  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All Saints Day

     In New Orleans it is tradition to go and care for the family tomb on All Saints Day.  Here you are buried above ground in a tomb.  Tombs are owned by families and are used and reused for as long as you want to use them.  I won't go into the gory details about what is done to accommodate a new coffin, but the rules are simple:  1. Wooden caskets only.  2.  The next guy has to wait a year and a day before he/she can be buried.

Yeah, we put Mardi Gras Beads on the tomb,
and when the Saints won the Superbowl we decorated it with black and gold.

Here we are all cleaned up!  The panel on the right is funky beige because of Katrina,
but the rest of the tomb cleaned up fine; weird.
I know it looks like we put this one kid to work,
but I promise we all did our part.

This tomb is where my Great Grandma, Great Aunt, Great Uncle and Uncle are buried.
This one was built in 1881.  When they run out of room on the front for names,
they move the panel to the side and put a new one on the front as you can see here.  
     Anyways, on All Saints Day you place flowers on the tombs and clean them up a bit.  It's also a bit like playing at Keeping Up With The Jones'; you don't want your tomb to be the one looking sad without flowers or peeling paint.  This year there weren't so many flowers out there, but I attribute that to All Saints Day being on a weekday.  We brought along some extras and placed them on our neighbors, which made us feel good.   (Names have been blurred on purpose.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Costume Frenzy

The Sanderson Sisters and the "Bless You Angel."

     I LOVE costuming.  It's the bestest thing in the whole wide world, so when there is a holiday that requires a costume you know it's going to be my favorite.  I have two favorite holidays: Mardi Gras and Halloween.  So of course I have to whip up something or it will just ruin my day.  Actually, whip up doesn't describe what I do, it's more like a week long frenzy of emotional ups and downs until the thing gets finished.
Mary Sanderson

It's a cornucopia covered with fake hair.

He's just too cute to leave out.
Winnie Sanderson, (me).

Witches and cats go together.


     This year I got to finally live out my dream of being a Sanderson Sister.  This was a small group costume thing and with me being the only one who could work a sewing machine, it was a lot, (Did I mention a lot?), of time at the machine.  The outfits are a combo of modified thrift shop clothing, odds and ends we had on hand, new items, paint, dye and sewn fabric.  Overall we were pleased, but as usual there are things I would like to go back and tweak.  Now I will count the days until Mardi Gras and we do this all over again.