As a kid, I used to think the term Mardi Gras had such a festive yet mysterious sound to it. Then I found out that in English, it simply means Fat Tuesday. That was kind of a disappointment. But of course, it’s the perfect term for it’s original meaning, which did not center around drinking your face off and flashing strangers for cheap beads, but rather it was a big caloric blowout before the stringencies of Lent. Enter the Paczki. For those of you who, like me, only recently got clued in to them, Paczki is a Polish word, pronounced “poonch-key.” At one point I was calling them “punch-keys” but have since been corrected. So, what is a Paczki? Last year I was determined to find out. Determined, but...I waited too long.
Every year, about a week or so in advance, people begin anticipating Paczkis. Signs go up in the bakery; people salivate and talk about how delicious they are; they groan over how many they will likely eat etc. But after Fat Tuesday there is not a Paczki to be found anywhere. Gone-zo. It’s the Lent thing. So this year I was ready, and when I started to hear the buzz all over town, and on the radio, the TV news, I got there early. I didn't know what to expect. Like I said, until a couple of years ago, when I came to Leamington from out West, I’d never heard of Paczkis. And even though I grew up in Detroit, which has at it’s heart the Polish community of Hamtramck, I don’t recall that there was a citywide Paczki Day back in the 60s. And since my ethnicity tends to be more boringly WASPish, I lived in a world without Paczkis. But no more! And today I can report to you that the mystery behind the exotic Paczki has been revealed. A Paczki, it turns out, is basically…a jelly donut. But a jelly donut on 'roids! Sweet dough (fat), deep (fat) fried, and then pumped full-to-bursting with (fat) jam or custard, and then either frosted, or dusted with powdered sugar (fat fat fat). Now, I confess I don’t really care all that much for donuts, but in the interests of research, yesterday I ate one-and-a-half Paczkis (one with custard, one half of a fruit). I can now see why there are no Paczkis available once the restraints of Lent begins – because today I don’t care if I ever eat another Paczki, or anything else for that matter, ever again. I feel kind of like Roger Miller right at the very end of that “Chug-A-Lug” song… I think I have a “fat hangover” this morning. Just coffee for me, thanks.
Well, that’s it for the culinary part of this post; now for the music. This is terrific vintage footage - and who better to listen to on this Fat Day than Fats Domino. I think walking anywhere right now would be very beneficial.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18nTpdDKD04
Let's have a little contemporary Cajun music while we're at it. This is the best of the best: Jo-El Sonnier, Doug Kershaw, and Jimmie C. Newman, and "Jolie Blon." Laissez les bon temps rouler! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMBED9lA25E