Wednesday, January 12, 2005

For the Glory of the Paczki

One thing I have really missed, no longer living in Michigan, is Paczki Day. Some of you may know this day, the day before Ash Wednesday, as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. For Polish Catholics (and Ukrainian pastry fans like myself), it is traditional to celebrate this day with polka dancing and eating paczki, which, for reasons having to do with the pronunciation of the Polish language, is pronounced PUNCH-key.

Behold the paczki:

What a glorious tradition--an entire day dedicated to eating jelly-doughnut-like delicious things.

This is the last thing you see before you die and ascend directly into heaven.

In South Carolina, you do not find the paczki. Yes, I could make them myself, which I planned to do last year, but I did not quite get it together. It was so much easier in Michigan, where I could walk to a bakery, or drive to a store, and purchase perfect, fresh, delicious paczki.

Apparently in 1998, over $10M worth of paczki were sold in Michigan alone. That number may be down significantly in recent years, now that I have moved away.

There were enough Polish Catholics where I went to graduate school that the local grocery stores even carried the paczki, and I knew that the winter had a hope of ending, that I would make it through another semester, that I could endure grading another set of first-year compositions, when I saw the sign, PACZKI DAY IS COMING!

No matter how much you love paczki, this is too much:

According to the website, these adorable paczki bobbleheads are "A SMALL PIECE OF POLISH HERITAGE EVOKING MEMORIES OF ETHNIC PRIDE AND GRANDMOTHER!"

Interesting linguistic fact: the singular form of paczki is paczek, pronounced POHN-check. (props to the real janelle). Of course, most non-Polish-speakers tend to use paczki as the singular and paczkis as the plural. I love what happens when people use foreign words that they do not fully understand. Kind of liking asking for some au jus to go with your steak.

Well now, gentle but perhaps jealous reader, it turns out that this year at long last I will be back in the great state of Michigan for this very day. No really--it happened by chance--I did not set up my entire itinerary around Eastern European jelly doughnuts! Honest.

But I am not complaining.


mtnRoughneck said...


Howdy. Didn't know you were from MI. I may be moving to Traverse City in August. I'll keep an eye out for lone renagade paczek and maruading hoards of paczki.

I spent over a month in the Charlevoix area during a summer break from college during the early 90's. Did the Venetian Festival in Charlevoix and the Polka Festival in Petoskey. Michiganers can REALLY festival!

Northern Michigan is beautiful and second only to Colorado (IMO- but I'm biased.)

Isis said...

Now I am jealous! Yes, do keep a look out, but do not forget that Traverse City is some prime sour cherry area. Whatever runs you give yourself devouring baskets of them are WORTH it.

Venetian festival?

My great regret is that I did not make it up to the UP before I left. Do not make the same mistake.

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, I live a mere 6 blocks from Jablonski's Polish Bakery. Fat Tuesday ended 40 minutes ago, I'm nauseated from the paczek I ate...raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, bavarian cream, chocolate, and my personal favorite: cream cheese. Hope your Paczki Day was as sickening as mine!

Isis said...

O lucky, lucky Anonymous. Alas, this year I was in a paczki-free zone, and your message makes my mouth water!