A Mardi Gras Survival Guide For Hosting Tourists
Who else is spending 80 percent of their day with Al “Carnival Time” Johnson in their heads? It can’t be just me who constantly hears the staccato eighth notes of the horns and piano in the song’s opening? Washing dishes, shopping at Winn Dixie, walking in the park, writing this right now, saying “duh duh duh dum duh dum, duh duh duh dum duh dum…” over and over. And like that catchy instrumental phrase so intrinsic to Mardi Gras, many of us are experiencing another Mardi Gras tradition—hosting visitors from out of town.
It can be a big responsibility to host people over the Carnival holiday. They come to New Orleans as first timers who hold incredible misconceptions of how to earn beads, or maybe they visit every year and have earned the wary patina of those of us who go to more than four parades each season. Either way, you have people in your house who may or may not be related to you and will know you much better by Ash Wednesday.
With hospitality at the forefront, here are some suggestions to make for successful visits.
Buy bulk paper supplies.
You do not want to run out of toilet paper. Make some room under a bed for storage and buy that 30-roll pack of bath tissue. Consider buying paper towels in bulk as well, in advance of likely spills and the guaranteed fried chicken and/or crawfish consumption.
Buy an inflatable mattress.
While you’re out running errands, add an inflatable mattress to your shopping list. Don’t skimp on quality here because sleepless people are grumpy people. Even if you have enough beds to accommodate everyone, having an inflatable mattress as backup can help situations when there is an unexpected guest or someone has forgotten that over-imbibing makes them snore. Also, be sure you have the correct sheet size for the mattress and extra pillows as well.
Make a double batch of red beans to keep in the refrigerator.
It can be challenging to keep to a regular meal schedule during Mardi Gras. Be sure everyone has plenty to eat for breakfast, then after that, who knows what they will eat. Through the course of a parade day, they might be offered all manner of sandwiches, chicken, pizza, king cake, chips, burgers and hot dogs, not to mention the Moon Pies and caramel corn they might catch from riders. Keep something cheap and easy to microwave stocked in your fridge, like a double batch of red beans and rice, so people always have a hearty meal at the ready.
Clean out your costume closet.
Do you really need to keep that Guy Fieri wig? Are you going to wear all of those temporary tattoos? Give your guests access to your closet, storage totes, shoe boxes and whatever assortment of organizational containers you have for your costumes and let them “go shopping.” Help them create a silly costume they would never dare to wear in South Dakota. Don’t let them go home without the experience of glitter, wigs and lamé, preferably all three. If you are hosting children, this is an especially fun rainy day activity.
Create a King Cake competition.
Tourists don’t know what to think about King Cake. They especially don’t understand the baby. Teach them about our favorite sweet treat with a variety of King Cakes from an easy one-stop-shop. Visit the King Cake Hub at the Mystère Mansion, located at 4800 Canal St., and choose from more than 35 flavors of doughy goodness. Classic bakeries like Gambino’s and Caluda’s have cakes for sale, and more recent additions to our food scene like Bywater Bakery and Girls Gone Vegan also have cakes available. You can no longer pre-order cakes from King Cake Hub this season, so stop by and see what is available that day. They are open now through Monday, Feb. 24 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the exception of Feb. 22 when they are closing at 2 p.m. for the Endymion parade.
Keep recovery supplies on hand.
Find out what your visitors’ go-to hangover cures are and buy them in advance—headache medicine, antacid, Gatorade, saltine crackers, yakamein, whatever works for them. The odds are that someone in your house will need at least one of those things over the coming days, and it is better to be prepared.