Fat Tuesday historically has been the bane of any New Year’s Resolution to get slim and trim after a year of indulgence. That’s because it’s historically been a day for Catholics (and an excuse for non-Catholics) to stuff their faces with food.
If you’re Polish or just from this region in general, that means you’re celebrating Paczki Day. And by celebrating, that means you’re eating a doughy, fruit-filled confection known as a “paczki” while also correcting those unfamiliar with the tradition that it’s pronounced “PUNCH-kee” or “POONCH-kee”, but definitely not “PACK-zee” like it’s spelled.
The deep-fried dough is more often than not filled with fruit, but it can also be filled with creme or custard. It’s also often covered with powdered sugar, icing, glaze, or some form of sweet-tasting carb.
So why is this not called a berliner (German) or a jelly doughnut (everywhere else)? It’s because the paczki’s are made from an especially rich dough and it’s simply what the Polish called it when it was invented during the Middle Ages (with some help from the French).
Perhaps more appropriately, the word “Paczki” itself may have been derived from a Proto-Slavic word used to describe anything round, bulging and about to burst.
So whether you’re in Chicago, Detroit, South Bend, Benton Harbor, Fort Wayne, or anywhere with Polish heritage, enjoy your paczkis.
But if for some reason you can’t, Casimir Pulaski Day (March 5) is just around the corner, and you can join Chicagoans and other Polish-Americans in honoring the Revolutionary War hero with a fried and fruit/creme-filled delight.