If there’s one thing I love about Chicago, it’s the fact that they share a lot of the same traditions as Detroit does. Today just happens to be one of those days.
I had a co-worker back in Michigan that moved from the East Coast. The first February in Detroit, she recalled how she’d be reading the newspaper and would stumble upon this word that she had NO idea how to pronounce.
“Pack-zee? Pass-key?” That’s how she thought the word would sound like. “And what the *heck* is ‘Pazz-ski Day’ anyway?”
My fellow Detroiters and I laughed when we heard that statement. “Poonch-kee,” we corrected her. But really, we couldn’t fault her because … well, unless your Polish, you probably wouldn’t know how to pronounce “Paczki.”
For those of you that aren’t familiar with what a Paczki is, it’s a deep-fried piece of dough that is typically filled with either crème or jelly. Sounds like a regular doughnut, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t … it’s made out of especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugars and sometimes milk. So basically it’s a lot more calories than your typical filled doughnut.
Paczki Day started as a Polish tradition in which a typical Polish-Catholic would make batches and batches of paczki to try to purge any ingredients that might spoil during the Lenten season. And, of course, what better day to get “rid” of all those extra paczki than to make Fat Tuesday the official day for these treats?
This tradition carried over to the US, and in particular the Midwestern states, where there are large communities of Polish-Americans. Detroit, in particular, has Hamtramck; a city of Polish descendents within the city of Detroit. And Chicago, apparently also has a multitude of Polish neighborhoods; which is collectively known as Chicago Polonia.
And why do I know so much of the history of Paczki Day? Well … let’s just say the Catholic Grade School I went to comprised mostly of Polish-Americans. So much that this Filipino-American knew more about pierogi and sauerkraut than the typical non-Polish-American.
Seriously … our Grade School’s Annual Festival comprised of your typical Midway rides, a beer tent and a Polka contest. (And no … I do not know how to Polka. But I have been taken around the dance floor a couple times!) In fact these same co-workers (who helped me tease our East Coast transplant) have all but named me an “Honorary Pole” for knowing a little too much of Polish traditions!
So yes … I just thought I’d bring a little history to y’all non-Polish peeps and any non-Midwesterners. Have a wonderful FAT TUESDAY and a Happy Paczki Day!!