Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, And Paczki

Fat Tuesday, also called Shrove Tuesday, signifies the end of Mardi Gras. It is the final day of the Carnival celebrations and is the day before Ash Wednesday. According to Wikipedia, the term Mardi Gras is actually the French phrase for Fat Tuesday. Which, to many Christians, is the last day of gluttony: eating rich, fatty foods before Lent and the time of sacrifice starts the next day.

Paczkis are the traditional food of Fat Tuesday. Making paczkis was a way to use up all the sugar, eggs, lard and fruit in the house that was forbidden to be eaten during Lent by Catholic fasting practices.

Pronounced many different ways (PUNCH-key, POONCH-key or PONCH-key), it refers to what is basically a stuffed donut, reports the Chicago Tribune.

On Fat Tuesday, people across the United States will be lined up to get their hands on this wonderful treat.

The deep-fried dough is filled with some type of sweet filling, such as fruit, cheese or custard, and is often dusted with powdered sugar.

Wikipedia reports that traditionally, a small amount of grain alcohol is added to the dough before it is cooked. As the alcohol evaporates during the frying process, it prevents the oil from penetrating deep into the dough. An ideal paczki is one that is a bit collapsed, yet fluffy, with a bright stripe around the middle. Supposedly, that means the oil in which the dough was fried, was fresh.

MLive spoke with Judy Sarkozy of Sarkozy Bakery in Kalamazoo, Michigan about her Fat Tuesday Paczkis.

“They’re so good they’ll make your Polish grandmother weep.

Sarkozy’s recipes call for authentic paczki made with rum, butter and egg yolks.

“We use all fresh ingredients. Ours are fried in clear oil with no trans-fats and we make our own fruit fillings that are not too sweet — soaked prunes that are mixed with butter and the egg custard is home-made with rum.”

The bakery made 3,000 paczkis to sell on Fat Tuesday.

Another Michigan bakery, Sweetwater’s Donut Mill estimates they will be making about 8,000 of the treats and the line to buy them will be out the door. The manager, Cari Pal said that theirs was different because they make a richer dough.

“Our’s are bigger.”

Paczkis are an apt food for Fat Tuesday. Their calorie count can run from 400 calories to over 700.

Other popular traditions of Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras are the numerous parades, dancing and debauchery that occurs over the festival season. In New Orleans, Louisiana, Mardi Gras stretches from Twelfth Night (January 5 or 6, depending on the location) all the way to Ash Wednesday. Other locations only celebrate the last three days before Ash Wednesday.

The parades vary by theme, from being appropriate to the youngest viewer to those that are quite naughty and are adult-themed. The riders on the floats wear masks and traditionally throw beads, candy and trinkets to those waiting to see the parade.

During the children’s parades, kids will line the street, jumping up and down, waving to get the attention of the riders so that items will be thrown at them or in their direction. Whoopi Pies are a favorite score, as are the beads. Often you will see kids and parents loaded up with the colorful beads that are such a symbol of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday.


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[Photo by Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images]