Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras translated into English means Fat Tuesday. Most European traditions have some sort of food-related celebration the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Lent is the period of reflection before Easter Sunday, and it is often accompanied by fasting or as the expression goes, "giving up something for Lent."
At Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven, Fat Tuesday is commemorated with their annual Pancake Supper. "Getting fat is a side effect," said Pastor Rob Hensley. He explained how in England, Fat Tuesday was the day you used up all the cooking fat in the cupboard because fats were not to be used during Lent. Donations from Tuesday night's supper will go to Episcopal Relief and Development for Katrina.
At the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven, the Rev. Roger Spinney donned his apron and stood over a hot griddle cooking pancakes for a hungry crowd. The church put the fat in Fat Tuesday by serving an all-you-can-eat meal of eggs, pancakes, fruit, sausage, bacon, and muffins. Waitresses and waiters called in orders and the kitchen workers jumped into action. Mr. Spinney knows the value of community meals, as his church often hosts these events. He is already planning the next meal, corned beef and cabbage on Saturday, March 15.
Bourbon Street, Oak Bluffs
In Post Office Square in Oak Bluffs, Fat Tuesday was celebrated in a purely secular fashion with a party hosted by the Park Corner Bistro and its neighbor, Offshore Ale. In collaboration with Jesse Martin of the Bistro, Phil McAndrews, co-owner of Offshore, created a true New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration.
"Last year on Mardi Gras, it was a slow night. We finished up early and went to Seasons," said Mr. McAndrews. "We thought it was a shame there was nothing to do to celebrate. We started tossing ideas back and forth, and came up with the idea."
A full music line-up at both bars played throughout the night. Wes Nagy and Jeremy Berlin played their own piano sets then joined for a half hour of dueling pianos at Offshore. The duel ended with a jazzy version of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." The Brass Trio played a set at each bar, then split up to join the pianists.
"At Mardi Gras, you're supposed to be able to hear different music and try different food," said Mr. McAndrews, over the sounds of the Brass Trio at Park Corner. "You're supposed to be engaged in activity; it's interactive."
For the holiday, the two restaurants sold passes that allowed one to buy an appetizer at one place, an entrée at the other, and a dessert at either.
At Park Corner, diners found true New Orleans cuisine in the form of crab beignets, muffaletta, and jambalaya. Offshore boasted fried gator bites, gumbo, fried oyster po'boys, and king cake for dessert.
"Tonight, you can walk along the street, enjoy different bars, and experience French Quarter menus and entertainment," said Mr. McAndrews. "We wanted to give Oak Bluffs a Bourbon Street feel."