Remember When Anthony Bourdain Ran Mardi Gras in Mamou?
The late Anthony Bourdain was not only a talented TV chef, but he was also one heck of a storyteller. And, one of the places Bourdain seemed to really enjoy telling stories about was this place that we call home.
South Louisiana's Cajun Country was a backdrop for more than a few of Bourdain's travels in his illustrious career. But no one visit by Bourdain to South Louisiana quite matched up to the story he told about running his first, and I think it was his last, Cajun Mardi Gras.
If you're new to the area there is a big difference between the Mardi Gras you see in New Orleans and the one you see in Lafayette just a few hundred miles to the west. Now, if you go a little further to the west and inch northward just a bit you'll find yourself smack dab in the middle of the Cajun Prairie. You'll also be in the vicinity of the communities of Church Point and Mamou and let's just say they "Mardi Gras a lot different" in those communities.
The Cajun Mardi Gras or Courir is a time-honored tradition in which the "peasants" of the town wandered through the community on Mardi Gras day. Their purpose was to gather ingredients for a Mardi Gras gumbo. One of those ingredients for the gumbo is chicken. A live chicken must be captured and killed and prepared for the pot.
Here is the full episode of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown in Cajun Country:
All the majesty, misgivings, mayhem, and minor injuries were recorded in Anthony Bourdain's CNN Featured Program Parts Unkown. In the episode about Cajun Mardi Gras Bourdain gets his full-blown chicken-chasing outfit on. It comes complete with a mask and fringe and I could be mistaken but it appears as though under that mask, Mr. Bourdain seemed to be more than a little concerned about all the activity surrounding the chicken.
Of course, the episode takes a long hard look at Cajun traditions from the gathering of families to create food, and costumes, plan the Mardi Gras, run, and of course drink and dance. There is a lot of that in the episode as well. Perhaps the moment of the piece comes as the Mardi Gras revelers are slowly inching into a boarded-up Mamou. Bourdain is speaking of how the "faithful" are feeling "no pain" after a day of chasing chickens in the mud and drinking.
It's at that moment a man standing on a car behind Bourdain falls from the roof and onto the ground. If that was staged, it was brilliant. If that wasn't staged then Bourdain just got lucky. From what we understand the guy that fell off the car is none the worse for wear. The incident happens at 37:58 in the video if you'd like to see if you know that guy.
The whole episode takes less than an hour to watch and you can watch it on YouTube. It's a great study in "the original Mardi Gras" and the kind of story that I can see why generations would want to tell every year.
Whether you celebrate Mardi Gras in the mud chasing chickens or you celebrate by watching others get in the mud and chase chickens it is a unique celebration of a very unique culture. So far, it's a culture the rest of the world and the nation haven't been able to homogenize, so it stands out, Which is just the way we like it here in South Louisiana.
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