42/365: Pączki for Fat Thursday

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    February 11th

    This is a confectioner's stall at the market near my place. Normally the shelves are filled with different kinds of cakes- chocolate eclairs, honey gingerbread, puff pastries, jam buns...

    But today, it is all pączki. Because today, my friends, is Fat Thursday, and custom declares that on Fat Thursday a person should eat as many pączki as they can. And then they should eat some more.

    Now, there is a common misconception in America, I have noticed, about this traditional Polish dessert called 'pączki'.

    First of all, we do not eat them on Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday followed immediately by Ash Wednesday, effectively the last day of the Carnival before Lent, but it is not a feast celebrated in Poland.

    We do not celebrate 'Pączki Day', either. That is a Polish-American tradition.

    At home in the old country, what we actually celebrate is Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek). It falls on the last Thursday before Lent- almost a week before Ash Wednesday. In other words, today.

    Second of all, they are not doughnuts. Doughnuts have holes in them and they are a completely different dough besides. And what you might think are doughnut holes are mini pączki, or pączusie.

    Now, about the name itself. I have heard the word explained as 'packages'. Not so- the word actually means 'buds'. See the little tail underneath the 'a'? That makes an 'aw' sound, and the word is pronounced 'pawnchkee'. The confusion comes from replacing the letter with a regular 'a': 'paczki' are, indeed, packages, preferably wrapped up in brown paper and tied up with string. 'Pączki', however, are buds, such as you would see on a tree in springtime, and though the cakes named after them do often come wrapped in paper, its colour is waxed off-white, and the string is ribbon rather than jute.

    Note also that the word is plural, the singular form being 'pączek' (pronounced 'pawncheck'). One pączek, two pączki. Of course it is only natural that the English language would add an extra s and adapt the word as pączkis. :) (the aforementioned 'pączusie' is a diminutive, and indicates the 'pączek' has been shrunk to cuteness.)

    If all this etymology has made you hungry, you should feel justified in running out to the nearest confectionery shop and bringing home as many sweet pastries as you can carry. It is, after all, Tłusty Czwartek.

    More mouthwatering photos on my blog.

    1. SomeHoosier 51 months ago | reply

      Hmm... I do need to go buy a shipping envelope this evening. Perhaps I can make a detour to a grocery store as well.

    2. SuperDewa 51 months ago | reply

      Mmmmm... Those look good.

      They sell these in our local grocery store, seasonally. Since they aren't part of my tradition, I never really paid attention to the season I'll have to check whether they have them now!

      Are they just Polish, or do they have versions of these with similar names in other Eastern European countries? I think this area has more people of Ukrainian descent than Polish descent, so I always just assumed they were Ukrainian. I have to say I haven't even paid much attention to the the way they are spelled.

    3. swintime 51 months ago | reply

      Good lesson on their true meaning!

    4. wanderingnome 51 months ago | reply

      I love learning new things! I really appreciate you taking the time to post the information. If I've ever seen Pączki I probably thought they were hole-less doughnuts. I'll definitely keep my eyes open!

    5. amp'ed 51 months ago | reply

      Great shot!

    6. jeanneg. 51 months ago | reply

      That sure is interesting. A polish-american girl here (her mom is from Poland) always brings them in on Fat Tuesday as we call it here...so I now I know the truth! :-)

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