The day before Ash Wednesday has many names — Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. Shrove Tuesday. But all over the Midwest, it’s become known as Paczki Day.
From Green Bay, Wis., to Lorain, Ohio, from Calumet City, Ind., to Hamtramck, Mich., people are snapping up the jelly donuts that have their roots in Polish cuisine.
One Chicago bakery alone expects to sell 80,000 paczkis, so we’re going to go out on a limb and predict there may be millions sold in the Midwest on Tuesday. (On a slightly smaller scale, we stopped into Zingerman’s Next Door in Ann Arbor this noon. They had pre-orders for 600. All were gone before dawn.)
Changing Gears has been taking a look at immigrant traditions and culture across the Midwest, but the paczki seems to have transcended its beginnings and become a pre-Lenten staple.
Originally, the paczki (pronounced poohnch-KEY) was meant to use up the last of a Roman Catholic household’s fat and sugar before the Lenten fast began the next day.
Small ethnic bakeries used to be the only place that carried them. (When I was growing up in Michigan, you had to know somebody who could bring them over from Hamtramck, the Polish enclave that borders Detroit.) Continue reading