It’s Pączki Day!

Every year, the first time I see a box of pączki at Meijer, I get excited. It’s not because I can’t wait to sink my teeth into one; I can easily eschew those leaden pucks and wait for fresh treats on Fat Tuesday. No, it’s because when I see pączki, I know that even though the ground may still be covered with snow, spring is really, finally, just around the corner.

Well, the snow is still on the ground, but Fat Tuesday dawned mild and sunny in southeast Michigan. As a self-respecting bastion of Polish culture and tradition, in Jackson, one can purchase pączki on practically every corner today. A treat that never blipped on my radar while living on the East Coast, pączki are filled pastries traditionally enjoyed before Lent, specifically on Fat Tuesday.

I waited in a line that snaked around the inside of the tiny Hinkley Bakery to pick up a dozen of the soft, dense pillows, filled with cream, custard or jelly. Last year, I did the same thing at European Bakery.

Yeast donuts that rise before being fried and filled, pączki may have originated when Polish Catholics were trying to use up all the sugar, lard and fruit in the house in preparation for Lent. At their best, they are spongy and light. The most traditional fillings may be prune or raspberry, but pączki are available with a range of fillings, including cream, blueberry, custard, apple, lemon, and cream cheese. Judging by the 20 or so orders I overheard today, custard is the breakaway favorite among Jacksonians on the southwest side. Traditionally covered with sugar, they may also be glazed.

I’m not sure how many people are observing a day of feasting and merriment today, before beginning tomorrow to abstain from much-loved pleasures or vices, but I am sure that enjoying a pączek is a tradition most anyone can embrace. After all, it’s the perfect time to indulge before cutting out the junk in preparation for bathing-suit season. As for me, I’m not a bit Polish, but I never met a morsel of fresh, fried dough I didn’t like.

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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