Fat Tuesday, Mardis Gras, Pączki Day, Carnival, Carnevale or Fasnacht in parts of the world - however you say it, the day before Lent is celebrated with partying and indulgence.
A Polish tradition is to celebrate the last six days of Carnival, known as zapusty, beginning on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) when pączki (fried doughnuts) are eaten. In America, pączki can be found in bakeries on Fat Tuesday or Pączki Day, Feb. 21.
In Trenton, you can find 'em at Elliot's Bakery.
Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday, traditionally begins 40 days of fasting, or the very least, giving up sweets until Easter.
The pronunciation varies. Some say POHNCH-kee; Americans generally say POONCH-kee. Singular is pączek, pronounced POHNCH-ek. Whichever way you say it, the bakery sales clerk will understand what you want.
The baking and consumption of paczki began as a practical matter. Pączki were made as a way to use up the lard and eggs which were prohibited during the ancient observance of Lent. Now, they’re more of a last-minute binge on sweets before the sacrifice begins.
Pączki is Polish for “little package.” And what sweet packages they are.
According to tastingpoland.com, paczki are round spongy yeast cakes, rich in egg yolks and stuffed with one of many fillings like: rose or strawberry preserves, prune, apricot, liqueur, budyn (Polish pudding/blancmange), sweet curd cheese or chocolate. The dough is deep fried like a doughnut in deep oil until dark golden color and served covered with powdered sugar, icing sugar or chocolate. Also, oftentimes it is sprinkled with orange peel. Paczki, among the most traditional Polish desserts, they appeared in Poland during the time of King Augustus III of Poland (first half of 18th century). For a recipe, click here.