A Dusting of Sugar – Paczki Traditions

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Picking out clothes is incredibly hard in the dark. I knew wearing my purple zubaz pants and t-shirt with an armpit hole weren’t the best wardrobe choices. If only it were warmer out…

Winter mornings are hard to distinguish from winter nights, but there’s a sense of adventure when you wake up earlier than your normal alarm time. Despite considering myself a morning person, there aren’t many things that will get me out of bed before 6AM. My girlfriend started asking where she could get her hands on a paczki a week ago. Her coworkers said groceries had them, which wasn’t alluring. She wanted her first time to be special so we discussed going to a bakery near my house.

I remember my first time. Beth, a former coworker, brought in a huge box for the creative team. With a large smile she proudly announced “Happy Paczki Day!” I had no clue what a Paczki was (pronounced poonch-Key). It looked like a donut and I eat donuts, so in my mouth it went. Paczki Day aligns with Fat Tueaday (the gorging before the diet that is Ash Wednesday/the start of Lent for Catholics). They originate from Poland and are popular in areas with large Polish populations. According to Wikipedia, they started as a way to use up ingredients forbidden during Lent.  That concludes today’s history lesson.

Beth unveiled the large box of whipped cream and strawberry-filled dough pockets. Each subsequent year, she would bring in a box from her bakery, tied with bakery-issued twine, and our workspaces morphed into a winter diorama rivaling a Thomas Kinkade painting.

The snow just started to fall as Leann and I left my house for the best and closest scratch bakery. Having to use your headlights in the morning is a surefire sign that you’re up too early. The bakery is located in a strip mall and was the only business with lights on. As you approach the door you get that smell. There are few smells like it. As a kid I always hoped my house would smell like an Italian deli, but smelling like a bakery wouldn’t be an upsetting alternate. 

Leann selected apple and I chose cherry. If you’ve never done it, being at a bakery when it opens is a must-do experience. When you’re younger you think closing down a bar is cool, but once you hit 30, bakeries and coffee shops are the hip spots to start your day.

While ogling the powdered puffs, I overheard the staff chatting about the Super Bowl.

“Did you go somewhere to watch the Super Bowl?”

“Yeah, I got home at 11 and thought ‘I have to be up in three hours.'”

Here I felt sluggish about waking up at 5:45, blindly grabbing clothes in the dark before rolling myself to the bakery.

We inhaled our paczkis at a table to the side of the diabetes cases. They were ordered at 6:25 and gone by 6:31. One of the women working asked how Leann liked her first paczki. Leann and I were licking the powdered sugar off our fingers and opted to grin and nod showing our approval. The bakery was all ours until a man came in to order two dozen donuts. I’m guessing he had Carolina in his office pool.

The snow was falling heavily as I drove home, as if someone above had an enormous sieve and was dusting each car with powdered sugar like a paczki.

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  • Ok, now we’re talking. Here’s the thing about paczki: they’re laden with the fat and sugary goodness you need to use up before Lent. Back in the old country, you would avoid not just snacks, but all meat and dairy – and not just on Fridays, but for the whole Lenten season! So you’re doing no one any favors by eating just one paczek. You need to eat at least a half-dozen! They don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing!

    • Do you think they are much different from regular donuts? I am no connoisseur (to the bakery we go!), but I can’t tell a difference between the two.