After spending three years traveling back and forth to Louisiana, this is the first time since 2012 that I will not be in the Bayou for Mardi Gras. Because of this fact I decided to take it upon myself to throw a Mardi Gras party for all my friends up North to bring a little bit of Cajun to their lives. I decided I was going to throw this party and within an hour had an invite sent out to friends around the city.
Then I referenced last year’s How to Throw a Mardi Gras Party post, started making the to-do list and the shopping list, and started to think to myself, holy goodness, what have I done? I’ve never hosted a party like this before. This was a party of firsts for me, and I have to say, I think they all went pretty well.
5 Firsts for Chrystina
- This was my first time cooking dinner for more than 10 people in my “new place”.
New place is in quotes because I’ve now been here about two-and-a-half years. With 800 square feet split among 4 floors though, it’s difficult to figure out how to feed all of those people in the same space. In addition, I have an irrational fear of giving everybody I know food poisoning in a house that only has one bathroom. (Welcome to life inside of my brain.) I ended up making gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, red beans & rice, cornbread, and beignets. Not going to lie, I kind of impressed myself (even though almost all of them were made from boxes – thank you to Zatarain’s and Jiffy). I did notice about an hour before the party that I wasn’t serving a vegetable; I would probably add one of those for next time (although I’m not sure anybody else noticed).
- This was my first time using sternos to keep the food warm.
Because I’ve never needed to keep a whole dinner warm, I’ve never invested in sternos. Even this time, I borrowed the metal frames and large dishes. They worked wonderfully! The food stayed warm, I was able to cook ahead of time, and the serving area stayed pretty clean. Even the kitten didn’t try to attack them, which was my biggest worry.
- This was my first time deep frying anything.
I said that most of what I cooked for this party was out of a box, there was one thing that wasn’t – the beignets. I got this recipe from somebody at choir last weekend and it turned out awesome. They were absolutely delicious, and pretty easy to make once I convinced myself to only think about one step at a time. I managed to deep fry about 100 beignets without hurting myself or destroying my kitchen. I would call that a win for this klutz.
- This was my first time decorating my house for a party.
I’m a minimalist. I’ve got a theory that people don’t care what dish the food is served out of, don’t really care if there’s a fancy centerpiece, and won’t miss the fancy decorations. This fact alone makes me question whether or not I’m actually a good party planner, but I digress. This time I decided to splurge a little bit though. I woke up early Friday morning and made a paper chain that was gold, green, and purple, and it added a fun pop of festive color to my living room. I don’t know if anybody else cared, but it made me smile every time I saw it – and it only took about 30 minutes.
- This was my first time creating a party soundtrack.
Granted, I cheated. I bought a copy of Rebirth Brass Band’s Ultimate CD and played it in the background. We only played it through twice so people never got sick of the songs, and it added a fun New Orleans vibe to the background. Maybe I’ll have to start paying more attention to party soundtracks in the future.
All of those firsts went pretty gosh darn well. In addition to those, there were five things that I did during this party that I would definitely consider doing again.
5 things I would do again
- The party was BYOB.
Usually I try to supply food and drinks because I feel bad asking people to bring things, but asking people to bring their own drinks really took a lot of pressure off of me. Also, I didn’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of alcohol back from the liquor store or trying to factor in how many people were actually going to show up. Of course, we did end up 5 gallons of a Croatian drink called Voodoo.
- We played Mafia.
I couldn’t think of any Mardi Gras games to play, so admittedly, I didn’t really have anything planned for the evening. Then somebody mentioned mafia and I knew we had our answer for the evening. Mafia is a game where all of your guests are given a secret identity: townsperson, mafia, sheriff, or nurse. It is the goal of the mafia to try to kill everybody in the town and the it is the goal of the townspeople to try to kick the mafia out of town. It’s a fun game even if everybody doesn’t know everyone else, because you have to be suspicious of everybody and you get to learn names really quickly. I highly recommend this in a group of 10 or more if you’re looking for a big group activity. Also, 90% of the group used to be RAs, and it’s a residential living favorite.
- I started cooking ahead of time.
I did all the grocery shopping early. I made the corn muffins the night before and I started making the beignet dough ahead of time. In addition, I started cooking early in the afternoon. This way, when everybody arrived at my place I only had one thing left to finish up. It felt good to not be running around like a chicken with my head cut off.
- I took the day off from work.
I know this won’t always be an option, but when I decided to throw this party last minute I realized it was on a day I could take off of work. I took the day to clean the house, make the decorations, and do the food preparation. It was easy and painless because I had nothing else that I was supposed to be worrying about that day.
- I invited a friend to join me in the kitchen.
A friend came to visit the day of the party. She worked at my kitchen table while I made food. It was much more fun to have somebody to talk to and somebody to run things by while I was cooking. Oh, and she was a great question answer-er. Can people eat sausage casing? How am I going to get the things out of the hot oil without tongs? What order should I cook these things in? Does this sausage look cooked? Should I peel the shrimp?
Overall, I would definitely call the party a success. The last person left around 1:15am, which was pretty flattering that everybody was having a good enough time to stay for that long. Everybody had a lot of fun and all of my friends are starting to get to know each other, which is also fun. I can’t wait to see what idea I come up with next. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
PS. If you’re wondering why there are no pictures of the actual party, it’s because for the life of me I can’t remember to take any. Kind of a shame, right? You will never see the perfectly crafted beignets that I made. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to make them again.