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Irish celebrate Mardi Gras on location

Lesley Stevenson | Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This Fat Tuesday, some Notre Dame students will be celebrating with authentic Mardi Gras spirit straight from the Big Easy.

“It’s definitely an experience coming down, even with a budget,” senior Justin Asuncion said about his trip to New Orleans this past weekend. “It’s a great experience that every Notre Dame student should take if you can.”

Asuncion and fellow seniors Andrew Charnesky and Joe Caparros drove through the night Thursday to arrive in New Orleans by Friday morning, where they experienced traditions ranging from parades to Southern cookouts, they said.

 “We had the opportunity to go to an authentic crawfish boil,” Charnesky said. “We’re not from the South; we’d never heard of a crawfish boil before, but it was some of the best food I’ve ever had.”

Senior Allison Tompkins also traveled to New Orleans for the first time and agreed that the cuisine stood out as a highlight of her trip.

“I had grits for the first time, cheese grits with shrimp on it,” Tompkins said. “The rice and beans was to die for… I didn’t taste anything that wasn’t good.”

Tompkins described touring the French Quarter and learning about the history of various parades and the groups, called krewes, which plan them.

“I had heard about the pretty buildings, you know, in the French Quarter and everything, but honestly I didn’t know what to expect,” Tompkins said. “It really shocked me how beautiful it was with all the different areas and the Mississippi River and everything.”

Notre Dame Food Services general manager Marc Poklinkowski said students staying at Notre Dame for the festivities will be able to experience themed décor and menu items at both dining halls on Tuesday.

“South will have our Cajun-themed dishes on both homestyle and Pan-Am,” Poklinkowski said. “The popularity of this meal has increased tremendously over the years, so we found the need to take the regular Pan-Am items off for this day to offer students another area to get the themed menu items they are looking for.”

Poklinkowski added North Dining Hall will be offering jambalaya and Mississippi fried catfish as well as chocolate rum cake and mini éclairs and that South Dining Hall will feature jambalaya as well with blackened catfish.

“Our dessert bar [at South] will be a make-your-own-dessert featuring pound cakes, fresh strawberries, apples and caramel sauce, hot chocolate fudge and whipped topping,” Poklinkowski said.

Although Mardi Gras known for its celebration of excess, Asuncion and Charnesky said traveling to New Orleans can be done even on a tight budget. Charnesky noted that driving and staying with a friend in New Orleans helped cut expenses.

“You can definitely do it for under $500,” Charnesky said. “It’s not cheap, but if you’re just conscious about stuff you can do it on a budget.

“It’s a great time and it’s going to be something you’ll always remember.”

Contact Lesley Stevenson at lsteven1@nd.edu