Paczkis: Food For The Soul

Paczkis: Food For The Soul

I realize Paczki Day 2014 has passed, but who can completely block the sweet, sugary treat from their mind? I know I can’t, and I won’t try to either.

Paczki Day 2014 in Chicago, courtesy of Chicago Now

Paczki Day 2014 in Chicago, courtesy of Chicago Now – Show Me Chicago

I’m a Chicago-born girl who grew up in a very Polish family – I’m sure you can already tell where this is going. We celebrate Fat Tuesday like the Fourth of July or Christmas, and when it comes to my family, those events can get rowdy. If you don’t go to your local bakery or grocery store to buy paczkis, I would advise you to stay as far away from my family as you can that holiday.

Now, I assume not all of you are familiar with paczkis. What are they? How is that word even pronounced? Paczki is pronounced like “poonch-kee,” and they are essentially made up entirely of dough, sugar and fat. In fact, the word literally translates to “little doughnut” or “little package.” Great, right? Almost every news outlet puts out a story like this whenever Paczki Day rolls around, talking about recipes, how many calories are in the sweet treats and, of course, where to buy them.

Paczki Day 2013 in Chicago, courtesy of Huff Post and the AP

All for one and one for all on Paczki Day 2013 in Chicago, courtesy of Huff Post and the AP.

The article I linked to above is from International Business Times, and the author provides some history and recipes if you’re interested. Like this news article and others, blogs are posting similar stories. For example, a Chicago Now blogger shared where to find the perfect paczkis in Chicago during this year’s event. Even Polish bloggers flourish in sharing recipes. I don’t speak or read Polish – except “zimne piwo,” of course – but please, go for it if you can!

Although both writers’ information is relevant and will make you drool by the time you get through their articles, much of the history is missing.

Karnawal in Poland, courtesty of polandsite.proboards.com

Karnawal in Poland, courtesty of polandsite.proboards.com

Fat Tuesday fell on March 4, 2014, and as usual, Ash Wednesday followed the event. Paczki Day goes hand-in-hand with Lenten tradition, which I believe many people fail to realize. Fat Tuesday, Paczki Day or Mardi Gras all serve as the last day to indulge before Lent officially begins.

All the way back to the 16th century, people were forbidden to eat foods like fruit preserves, butter and eggs during this religious season, so cooks used the last week of Karnawal as a last gluttonous hurrah to get rid of all of these ingredients. Genius!

Karnawal begins on Fat Thursday, or Tłusty Czwartek, and then ends on Fat Tuesday, Sledziówka or Ostatki. And honestly, by the time this week of partying and eating is over, you will want to start fasting for Lent. Then, as mentioned, Roman-Catholics roll into church with jelly-filled bellies, receive the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads, and make a promise to God and themselves to better themselves during this time of Lent.

I really do love these traditions and how they’re all grouped within a week of each other. These beliefs and traditions bring cultures and people of faith together across the world, and that’s something quite special. It teaches through faith that you are allowed to have a little fun, but then still have to pay your dues to yourself, God and the church.