It’s Pączki Day, and in Detroit that means you should be sure to wear your stretchy pants or, as my old friend Denise used to say, your expando clothes!
Pączki, or Polish doughnuts, are eaten on Fat Thursday in Poland and Fat Tuesday in the United States. It’s the last splurge before Lent begins.
When I was still working, my employer provided huge boxes of them with every available filling next to the coffee machines in various areas of the building. Considering that the company is owned by Italians, I thought that was darned nice of them. My personal favorites are custard-filled and lemon-filled, but they are all delicious (and fattening.) Yum!
Depending on the size and filling, each pączki will be from 400 – 700 calories. Since they are deep fried, they aren’t low-fat either, up to 20 grams per serving.
According to Wikipedia:
Pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, yeast and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidl (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple.
The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent.
In North America, particularly the large Polish communities of Chicago, Detroit, and other large cities across the Midwest and Northeast, Pączki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. With its sizable Polish population, Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday; pączki are also often eaten on Casimir Pulaski Day. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Windsor, Pączki Day is celebrated on Fat Tuesday.
The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day. In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade, which has gained a devoted following. Throughout the Metro Detroit area, it is so widespread that many bakeries attract lines of customers for pączki on Pączki Day.
This year in Detroit, according to the Metro Times, if you’re looking for ways to celebrate this March 5:
There’s no place better to celebrate Fat Tuesday and the paczkis that come with it than Hamtramck, MI — metro Detroit’s Polish heritage-honoring enclave. To them, it’s more than a pastry… it’s a passion. And boy, do Hamtown bakeries serve them up best. Fat Tuesday becomes a citywide bar crawl with complimentary live music, luncheons, paczki eating contests and calories galore.
For the athletically-inclined, the city also hosts a 5K Paczki Run. Don’t worry if you’re not a runner! Just work those jaw and stomach muscles by slamming down some delicious fried treats at the paczki-eating contest.
If you just want to eat a paczki, for crying out loud, you can check out this list of places to get them here. They also give a shout out to one of my favorite area restaurants, Christine’s Cuisine, a well-loved restaurant serving Polish favorites like pierogi, smoked sausage, and kapusta (baked sauerkraut), where everything is homemade and delicious.
Whatever we indulge in today to celebrate the last hurrah before Ash Wednesday, it all represents preparation for the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting, self-examination and penitence, leading up to the death and rebirth at Easter.
It is a season in which we follow Jesus the Savior from His temptation in the wilderness, to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and to the cross on Good Friday. Lent is a season of hope. It looks to the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world and anticipates the joy of His resurrection on Easter Sunday.