[highlight color=”black”]FOODIE FRIDAY[/highlight]
To many people, Mardi Gras (which is coming up this Tuesday) loosely translates from French into “I will get drunk enough to expose my breasts to you, but not drunk enough to not get anything in return. Hand over those beads, fellas.” Seeing as I am (semi) fluent in French — please, hold your applause, praise, and marriage proposals — I tend to stick to the direct translation of “Fat Tuesday.” This could also have something to do with an obesity-inducing tradition I grew up with that involved hoovering a highly caloric Polish treat called a paczki every Mardi Gras morning.
I myself am not Polish — I am part French, though. Have I mentioned that I speak French? — but I learned plenty about the paczki (pronounced kind of like punch-key) by growing up relatively close to the large Polish enclave of Hamtramck in Detroit. To the naked eye paczkis look like simple jelly doughnuts, but in reality they are so much more delicious and so much more fattening because besides containing regular dough ingredients, paczkis are also made with a hefty amount of flavor-enhancing lard. And there’s a practical reason for this: the paczki originated from the need to use up pantry items like sugar, eggs, and fats that were off limits during the Catholic fast of Lent.
Polish immigrants brought the paczki with them when they moved to the Upper Midwest, and now they are consumed on Fat Tuesday throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan by Polish Americans and people who just love the delicious creation. In fact, areas that have retained a strong Polish population like Chicago and Detroit celebrate Paczki Day every Mardi Gras, a celebration that includes parades and paczki eating contests.
Some of my most treasured memories from childhood come from waking up on Paczki Day to a box of glazed dough balls filled with everything from chocolate custard to raspberry goo. It should be noted that I was quite rotund between the age of 8 and 14, so eating a paczki on Fat Tuesday was pretty much the equivalent of boozing it up in New Orleans — my one last hurrah before my mom made me give up snacks for 40 days and 40 nights.
If you can’t make it to Poland or the beautiful Midwest before the start of Lent, you can try your hand at making your own paczki with this recipe. If you’re lazy but still want to join in the Paczki Day fun, you can always go to Dunkin Donuts and get a dozen jelly donuts. The flavor won’t be as savory, but the calorie content of 12 jellies will be almost the same as one paczki.