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May Days With Mom

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Take a road trip to Marion or Mansura, or stay closer to home for the Greek or Jambalaya festivals

May is for celebrating motherhood, and there’s no more special treat than hitting the road with Mom and Grandma and spending the day at one of Louisiana’s food festivals. This month there’s no shortage of celebrations to choose from: the Mayhaw Festival and Cochon de Lait festivals fall on Mother’s Day weekend, and the fourth week of the month serves up a steaming pot of goodness at the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival. The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and the Greek Festival round out the month.

Many of us in New Orleans may not be familiar with mayhaws, but in the quaint town of Marion, an entire festival is devoted to this fruit. The Mayhaw Festival celebrates the mayhaw tree, which grows near streams and swamplands and bears small fruit reminiscent of crab apples. Sweet jams, jellies, wines and cakes are made from wild mayhaw fruit. Coinciding with Mother’s Day weekend, May 9 and 10, the Mayhaw Festival turns 27 this year. Fest-goers can choose from food booths dishing up barbecue, fried fish, crawfish, chicken on a stick and funnel cake. Games, contests, a kick-off parade and live entertainment will be fun for the young and not-so-young alike.

Follow your nose down Louisiana Hwy. 1 to the town of Mansura for the Cochon de Lait Festival, commencing on May 10. In the open southern air, 30-pound pigs will be placed over a hot hickory fire and roasted until golden brown. The aroma is breathtaking and the succulent, juicy flavors of the slow-roasted cochon de lait will drive you hog wild! This pig party also features competitions in hog calling, boudin eating and, of course, the greasy pig contest.

For those looking for a bit of refinement in their festival, the 17th annual New Orleans Wine & Food Experience offers five palate-pleasing days beginning on May 20. The event pairs fabulous wine from around the world with gourmet cuisine from the crème de la crème of local restaurants. Highlights include entertainment, celebrity guests, tastings and seminars. On May 23, don’t miss local radio personality and New Orleans Living writer Lorin Gaudin as she hosts “From Spain to Dumaine,” a seminar exploring the culinary influence of Spain on local cuisine, and featuring several local chefs who are experts on Spanish foods.

Jambalaya, the Southern man’s paella, is a mouthwatering mix of meats, seafood, rice and seasonings cooked long and slow. At the 41st annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, there will be a bounty of this traditional Creole-Cajun dish. The festival coincides with Memorial Day weekend, May 22–25, and offers a variety of great food, live entertainment, carnival rides and a Jambalaya cooking contest.

Experience My Big Fat Greek Wedding right in our own backyard during the 35th annual Greek Festival held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Cultural Center May 23–25. Lovers of Greek cuisine and culture will enjoy a wide variety of Greek food, from decadent desserts and pastries, including baklava, flaky and sweet galatobouriko, almond crescents and loukoumades (delicious Greek pastries covered in honey, cinnamon and sesame seeds) to traditional gyros and lamb roasted on open pits. This year the festival will bring back the popular Greek dinner that everyone asks for: homemade pastitsio, Greek meatballs, tiropita cheese pie and a choice of traditional Greek string beans or a Greek salad. The Mediterranean diet offers many choices for the vegetarian, too. Greek vegetarian plates are featured every year and include spinach pie, tiropita and dolmathakia (stuffed grape leaves). The Greek Grocery offers plenty items in which to stock your pantry: fragrant cheeses, olives, breads, olive oil, seasonings, Greek wines and gourmet specialties like eggplant dip. There’s also live music to enjoy, family entertainment and, of course, the frosty-blue ouzo and strawberry daiquiris.