Amid the thrill of the Winter Olympics, the breaking news of a kamikaze pilot taking aim at an IRS building, the death of Michigan-born musician Doug Fieger (My Sharona), and endless below-the-Beltway wrangling and pot shots, this week brought yet another yearly event. No, I don’t mean the anniversary of the passage of porky stimulus bills that provoke little more than hot tempers, Black History Month, or Presidents’ Day.
I’m talking about Fat Tuesday, the engorgement before the sack-cloth, ashes, and fasting of Lent.
Mainly a Catholic ritual made wildly popular by residents of New Orleans, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday, for those of you without a clue), the day before Ash Wednesday, is reserved for those who wish to party hearty before six weeks of enforced abstinence. That’s the deal before you can celebrate Easter. It makes perfect sense to stuff yourself before the leaner, meaner times descend. It’s instinct. Bears do it.
Down in Louisiana, revelers observe the day with massive amounts of alcohol (I’m thinking daiquiris in every color of the rainbow), the throwing of metallic green and purple beads, and the flashing of breasts, but here in Southeastern Michigan, we take a more basic approach to imbibing before the fast.
We eat big, fat, butter-laden, sugar-glazed jelly donuts.
Paczkis (pronounced “poonch-kies”) are not your normal, everyday jelly donut. Invented by the Polish people, paczkis are jelly donuts on steroids. They are chock full of more of everything – more fat, more sugar, more eggs, more jelly. They are as round and as solid as a tennis balls. Urban legend has the average paczki coming in around 4,000 calories; however, it’s probably closer to 500.
I don’t eat donuts. I reserve my sweet tooth to those items more refined, like Grand Marnier souffles. I don’t get the appeal of a plain Krispy Kreme. If an occasional box from Dunkin Donuts crosses my path, I will open it and take a sniff. However, on Fat Tuesday – Paczki Day in these parts – I will break with tradition and my diet and eat one of these yearly delicacies. A fresh paczki is soft, warm, and buttery. There is nothing like it.
My children were born and raised in Michigan. They are just two of the younger generation who have fled our state for warmer climates and a more promising job market. To make it plain, they don’t like it here. However, there is one thing about Michigan they both miss, and that is paczkis.
As a mother, I send occasional care packages to the West Coast, but both kids know when to clamor for paczkis. I usually send each of them six, enough to gorge and enough to share.
Of course, the flight of the paczkis must be made Next Day Air. A day-old paczki isn’t bad, but if the donut has been taking the scenic route via Pony Express, it’s a tragedy. You might as well open a package of Ho-Hos and call it a day. Paczkis are not made with preservatives and would likely not survive Priority Mail transit.
The guys at the UPS store know me well. This year I didn’t have enough time to package my plump, little paczkis, so I walked in carrying them in their bakery boxes with PACZKI emblazoned all over them in red ink.
I’m surprised my little taste treats made it to California, but they did.
I haven’t told my husband yet, but I did share with the kids that the going rate of those donuts was about $13 a piece.
I’m going to take it out of their inheritance.