-by Reagan Wempe

When people say Cajun, I immediately think gumbo and jambalaya.  It’s easy to associate spicy Cajun Country cuisine with this time of year, but if you’re like me, these are dishes that can be enjoyed year-round.  Here are recipes for “Big Easy” Gumbo – with a little help from Southern Living.

These recipes quick and easy for bringing Louisiana to life, but for those of you not so sure it’s a kitchen project to tackle just yet, you can sample the best of the best right here in Evansville at the first Franklin Street Gumbo Cookoff.

Gumbo Cookoff

Date: February 22, 2014
Time: Noon to 6 p.m.

Mardi Gras season is here, and Evansville is ready with events to keep the tri-state in the spirit.  Saturday, February 22nd from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the FIRST EVER gumbo cookoff on Franklin Street in Evansville. Local nonprofits teamed up with Franklin Street businesses have brought you this event to sample the different gumbos.  An individual "tasting spoon" is $10 and $15 for a pair.  Don’t worry – it’s not an actual spoon to keep up with all day – it’s wristband that gets you a taste at all the gumbo locations.  Gumbo entries will be judged in 5 categories:

1)    Official Judges
2)    People’s Choice (that’s you!)
3)    Exotic
4)    Spicy
5)    Traditional

Mardi Gras Pub Crawl

Date: February 28, 2014
Time: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

If that wasn’t enough, the fun continues into the following weekend.  February 28th boasts Franklin Street’s Mardi Gras Pub Crawl from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.  The armband for the night costs $5 and can be purchased at any of the participating restaurants/bars.  So come on down with your best mask, costume and colorful beads, and join in the Carnivale fun!  Pink Elephant Celebrations is providing the shuttle service between the bars and pubs. FREE shuttle rides and a FREE cab ride home at the end of the celebration.

Mardi Gras Parade

Date: March 1, 2014
Time: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Evansville streets will be lined with spectators for the FIRST Mardi Gras Grand Parade!  This parade will follow the same route as the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival – so the route will be familiar for those who wish to attend.  There will be floats and flags as well as hundreds of strings of beads.

Fat Tuesday

Don’t forget to celebrate Fat Tuesday (March 4) – it’s the final night of Carnivale and you can bet all the bars and restaurants will be open to celebrate with you!

If you decide to join in the Mardi Gras festivities, here is a refresher course on some of the common words and phrases unique to the Cajun language!  Bon appetite!

A Language All Its Own!

  • Bayou – refers to the marshy streams characteristic of Louisiana and the Delta region that eventually empty into a larger body of water
  • Dirty Rice – leftover pan-fried rice tossed with peppers, onions, celery and stock (and a variety of other ingredients if desired)
  • Laissez les bon temps rouler (lay-zay lay bon ton rule-ay) – simply put, “Let the good times roll!”
  • Roux (rue) – the base for gumbo and other Cajun stews, made of flour and hot oil
  • Zydeco – Creole dance music that blends traditional Cajun tunes with R&B and African blues (think W.C. Handy Blues Festival!).