For those of you who are not from the Detroit area, does this mean anything to you?
The reason I ask is that when I moved back to Detroit 10 years ago, I had never heard of this “Fat Tuesday” tradition. It must have gotten started in a big way after I left Detroit in 1982 and before I returned in 1996.
A paczki (pronounced “Poonch-key”) is a Polish donut. The easiest way to describe it is as a jelly or creme or custard filled donut, but much heavier than your garden variety jelly donut. Legend has it that in the ethnic Polish community, the last days before the start of Lent were the time to use up any remaining lard and sugar and then abstain until Easter. The lard and sugar went into these “gut-bombs” (my term for them).
I just learned that in Poland, Paczki Day is actually celebrated on Fat Thursday (the Thursday before Lent begins). In Detroit, it was the French influence and celebration of Mardi Gras that shifted it to Tuesday.
Here in Detroit, people line up at Polish bakeries in Hamtramck to get their annual paczki fix. As for me, I think I’ll pass.