Paczki Day is today – not Mardi Gras, not Fat Tuesday – it is Paczki Day, and the mission is to jam as many of these treats into the gullet as one pleases. Paczki (pronounced pawnch-kee) is a Polish delicacy (yes, delicacy) that consists of deep-fried, flattened balls of rich, fatty dough, that are packed usually with a sweet, fruit filling and are covered with icing and/or powdered sugar. They are essentially mega-doughnuts.
The Polish pastries are popular in the areas that saw the greatest influx of immigrants from Poland: Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and beyond. Traditionally people made paczki to use up all the fats, oils, fruit and sugar before the start of lent to help avoid temptations.
It is Pazcki Day today because it is the last chance for people to pack in as much high-caloric, delicious food as they can before Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent, begins. Lent, as most know, requires an excruciating 40 days of sacrifice if properly observed, and paczki are the perfect indulgence to savor before the self-denial begins.
It is Pazcki Day today because there is a chubby little Polish child deep down inside everyone who is begging to celebrate, begging to be merry, begging for a sugary hunk of fried, cream-filled dough. Today everyone is a little bit Polish, and that’s a wonderful thing.
It is Pazcki Day today because there are things that the Midwest of America just gets right. There will be people standing in lines outside bakeries before work this morning in Toledo that will have anticipatory smiles plastered on their faces despite the freezing cold weather. Kids in Chicago will gleefully unwrap a sweet treat that mom and dad packed up special for them in their lunch boxes. In Detroit a swell boss will brighten up another busy day for his employees by offering up a pastry-filled box procured from the local Polish store and in nearby Hamtramck there will be a parade.
It is Pazcki Day today because there are treat eating contests you must see, traditional music to be played, and folk dancing that must be done. It is a day of joy, and does America not need one of those during this belligerent Winter stretch? It is a day of celebration and a day of community. It is a day where families bake up their own unique paczki recipes that were handed down by their great, great grandparents. It’s a day when foodies squabble about the merits of plum jam filling over raspberry and powdered sugar over dried orange zest. It is a day to remember the importance of the little things, especially nowadays when there are events happening in the world that can sometimes just seem too big.
There is a lot that pieces of sugary, fried, fruit-filled dough can do, but maybe the best thing they are capable of is allowing people to just slow down for second – to stop, savor and enjoy some sweetness and allow the mind a bit of sanctuary from both the everyday mundanity and the far too uncommon tragedies of everyday life. Why, it is Pazcki Day today, and sometimes one must simply enjoy the treat.
Opinion By Matt Stinson