Paczki: What is it?

Paczki is a Polish jelly doughnut enjoyed on Fat Tuesday.

Bob Fila/Newscom
Traditional Polish paczkis are filled with fruits and jams at a bakery near Chicago that makes the treats only before Lent.

"Paczki" is a good word remember for a your next Scrabble tournament. In case you had forgotten, today is Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday) the day before Lent and a season of restraint at the dining table. This means all over the world in Catholic influenced nations people are going absolutely bonkers waving plastic beads and consuming as much sugar and pork and shrimp creole as possible before piety settles in for a season.

Pancakes and doughnuts are filling plates everywhere in honor of a tradition that demanded that pantries be emptied of all the lard, flour, eggs, sugar, and fruit that were declared off-limits during Lent's fasting practices. The tradition even has Prince William and Kate Middleton flipping pancakes in Belfast to honor Shrove Tuesday.

The French may have their beignets, the Germans their fastnachts, and even the Guyanese their pancakes – but the Polish have paczkis.

Paczkis, whose orgins date back to the Milddle Ages, are round jelly doughnuts filled with anything from fruit, to creme fillings and topped off with a sugary glaze or sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Plum jam, wild rose hip jam are among traditional fillings favored by Polish but strawberry, custard, raspberry and sweet cheese fillings are also popular.

In the United States, paczkis can be found wherever there are large Polish immigrant communities, most notably in the Midwest in such cities as Detroit and Chicago, and across southern Wisconsin. Phones in the bakeries in those communities have been ringing off the hook today as people search for the fluffy and sweet paczkis to enjoy on Fat Tuesday. There's still time to enjoy one while the ovens are still hot, get yours while you can!

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