Today is Fat Tuesday. If you are not familiar with the holiday, it’s probably one you should pick up. As the name might imply, it encourages eating until you are fat, and how many times do you hear that?
The Tuesday before Lent is starts is known in other parts of the country as Mardi Gras, a celebration of your more unruly self before getting religiously serious. Here in Northern Indiana, you might as well call it Paczki Day, since the fried and stuffed donuts are synonymous with Fat Tuesday. Around here we don’t worry about beads or costumes, just what type of filling to have in your paczki, and how to pronounce the name. It’s hard enough to spell it.
I have heard the name of the pastry pronounced a number of ways, especially out of my own mouth. I like to call it ‘punchkee,’ like I am going to punch the person who steals my donut and key their car. I would probably never do that, but it is a handy way of remembering the sound that looks absolutely nothing like the spelling. But stay away from my donut just the same. I think my pronunciation, is wrong, however, so don’t blame me if someone laughs you out of the bakery and down the street for sounding like an idiot.
The real word involves a Polish mystery as to how to properly shape your mouth to get the right sound out. I think it might be somewhere between ‘poonch’ like pooch and ‘paunch’ like launch. At least I got the key part. Mastered that. And the eating of the donut part.
I keep calling a Paczki a donut, but the real thing is better than the average donut, as anyone familiar with the treat will tell you. It’s supposed to be a thicker and eggier dough, and yet still have that airy lightness on the outside from being fried. It’s edible magic. The stuffing inside also has a much larger variety of filling than it’s jelly donut cousins.
The traditional Polish versions seem to offer prunes as a common filling, as well as apricots, custard, chocolate or vanilla cream and a variety of other flavors. I can’t help wanting to try them all.
But guess what, if you have not ordered a month in advance, do not bother showing up. The real bakeries are all sold out before opening and you get to try NOTHING. As a result of my poor planning, I ended up with a fake imitation at best. I snagged one from the local grocery store, which suspiciously tasted like a cream cheese filled everyday donut. I had a sad party eating a stale flat pastry that makes you really want to punchkee someone. So next year in January 1st, my New Years resolution will be to get my Paczki order in.