Last week during a discussion about competitive eating in my Food&Culture class my professor, a diminutive Indian woman with a delightful accent*, mentioned an idea called the pressure valve theory. It basically states that people can only maintain mundane normalcy for so long and at some point, society will collectively throw up their hands and party for five days straight before they then go back to real life. Oh wait, that's Mardi Gras. Subtract the party for five days straight part and insert something about a collective stress release and you've got the pressure valve--still kind of confused about what that has to do with competitive eating, but it's definitely applicable to the most wonderful time of year, aka Mardi Gras.

There's a long history to Mardi Gras, and the Krewes, but that's not really what's important. You get to drop everything and go play for four or five days--hang out with all the friends you don't normally see, open up your house to everyone you meet, get your family together if you've got them there. You get to say "Happy Mardi Gras!" to everyone, and no one's angry or mean or stressed out--a lot of times the atmosphere is better than even the Christmas season because there's no pressure and parades are free. Everybody pours out into the streets and sings and dances, and yes, drinks, but alcohol can't bring you the kind of happiness you get when you see the headlights of the first float coming down the route. Or the giddiness that hits when you hear the marching bands, or the adrenaline rush that comes from throwing up your hands and screaming with four thousand other people to catch beads. It's indescribable in some ways, how great it is. Sometimes it also really sucks, when you're tired and you have to go to the bathroom and you're out of money, but it's the time of your life.

I can feel it start to get bittersweet, too, but for now seeing the Mardi Gras tree on campus just puts me in a good mind. Gotta let those good times roll.

xoxo, Lauren

*Also she has a great New Orleans house, full of tasteful world decor. How do I know this? Because I went there---during Mardi Gras. Tis' the season.