Making Groceries at Parades

By: Emily Hingle

St. Patrick’s celebrations in New Orleans are some of my favorite times to party in the street. Our Irish and Irish-Italian parades have all of the fun of Mardi Gras, but with a more local feel. That may be due in part because they’re not just throwing beads and garters; they’re throwing you you’re next meal. Historically, one makes a traditional Irish Stew with the food items that you get at the parades; the true locals will yell out “cabbage” or “carrots” before screaming for trinkets. Matthew Aheam of the Irish Cultural Museum states that his family and friends “were very happy to get food instead of trinkets so we didn’t have to spend money on groceries that week. Made the whole parade experience that much more rewarding.” Laura Kelley’s book, Irish in New Orleans, explores the tradition as one of ethnic pride. “St. Patrick day parades in New Orleans are a unique experience. Riders on the floats hand out to spectators everything you need to make an Irish stew – potatoes, cabbage, carrots and onions – everything except the meat that is! The story of Irish parades in New Orleans is the story of community, camaraderie, and continuity. It is a story of neighborhoods and the social fabric that knit communities together in ethnic solidarity and mutual cooperation,” writes Kelley.

This is my family’s recipe for a New Orleans Irish Parade-caught Irish Stew.

  • Sautee 1 package of sausage and a trinity made up of 2 yellow onions 3 stalks of celery, one red and one green bell pepper (all chopped)in butter or oil until soft.
  • Add 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and one apple. Cook for three minutes. The apple takes the tartness out of the cabbage.
  • Add 6-8 chopped carrots and 6-8 chopped potatoes and water or stock to cook the root vegetables.
  • When the carrots and potatoes are soft, quarter cabbage and cut off the hard root part and add to the pot with salt, pepper and paprika. Cover and cook for at least one-half hour until the cabbage reaches your preferred consistency.

You know that you’re New Orleanian when you make your groceries at the Irish parades!

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