POSTED Wed. Nov 6, 2013
The Mirliton Festival: yes, we throw a party for a gourd
Amie Marvel
Written by AMIE MARVEL
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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a strange wrinkly pear-shaped vegetable that seems to have been named for a wizard! The time of year is again upon us to celebrate the mighty, yet humble mirliton. And what neighborhood could better understand, and therefore be the steward for this paradoxical cucurbit (that’s a word, OK?) than the Bywater. This Saturday, November 9th, the Bywater Neighborhood Association hosts the 24th annual Mirliton Festival.

The festival is bigger than ever in its second year at The Brickyard (on Chartres at Montegut). Over the years the celebration has taken on more participants, evolving into its current eating, gardening, dancing, frolicking and shopping extravaganza. From 11 am to 7 pm, for a $5 admission (kids under 12 get in free) the festival includes a full line-up of New Orleans musicians, an Artist’s Village, kid’s activities and food booths from nearby Bywater eateries.

But the star of the show is the eponymous mirliton, whose name is pronounced in as many different dialects as dishes it can produce. A palm-sized unassuming green squash with a puckered seam on the plump end, the mirliton (or chayote as it’s known in its Mexican homeland) stole the hearts of cooks across the state of Louisiana.

Its mild flavor and versatile shape lend it to many uses in the kitchen, from pickling to stuffing to roasting. It can be used in soups, as an edible bowl for shrimp salad, or diced up and sauteed. The festival will feature many of these renditions prepared by neighborhood restaurants like Pizza Delicious, Elizabeth’s, Sugar Park and The Country Club. Additionally, Dr. Lance Hill will be in attendance with mirliton seedlings and instructions for home gardeners who are curious about cultivating the little vine on their own.

The festival also spotlights some of the personalities that make the Bywater as unique and mildly eccentric as the mirliton. Expect Fringe Festival previews, an Artist village featuring handmade crafts and a musical line-up of bands who play frequently in the neighborhood (Good Children Marching Band, Kristin Diable, The Tin Men, Meschiya Lake). Also in attendance will be documentary photographer Bryan Tarnowski and WWNO’s The Listening Post, capturing resident’s portraits and stories on one of the many days we celebrate this place and its food.

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    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

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    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

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    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

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    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

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    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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