Starting with Halloween, it’s a slippery slope through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, a fast run full of overindulging and dietary no-no’s. Mardi Gras is often the crowning glory in a literal Fat Cake of Food. After so much indulgence, it’s almost with relief that we observe the calendar shifting to the more penitential observance of Lent. A solemn time of fasting and sacrifice, Lent is most commonly observed by Catholics and many of the Orthodox and Protestant religions.
Lent is observed as a 40 day period of time that begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates on Easter Sunday, although many religions differ in how to count the days. Traditionally, Lent is a time of spiritual discipline, in which you give up a favored food, be it dessert, coffee or chocolate. In the Middle Ages, a more strict observance of Lent required a total abstinence from any meat, eggs and dairy products of all kinds, feeling that a more sparse menu would lead to a greater religious experience. Modern rules have changed in most religions, but almost all observers of Lent use the time period to improve themselves.
It’s hard to believe that Ash Wednesday is just a mere few days away. (Wasn’t Christmas just last week?) This obviously makes the day before Ash Wednesday no other than Fat Tuesday when these traditionally Polish fried balls of flour, sugar and an assortment of fillings are eaten by the dozen. Certain cities across the U.S. like Chicago, Detroit, Hamtramck, Milwaukee and South Bend, devour these carb-laden delicacies on the Tuesday before Lent- but did you know that paczkis are supposed to be consumed on Fat Thursday, which is the last Thursday before Lent?
Rather than listing the calorie, carb and fat content of one of these speciality doughnut-like treats, if you live in a part of the country where the lines outside your local Polish bakery are a mile-long before 4 a.m., have fun if you decide to indulge. Eating indulgently is a balancing act so if you’re feeling a bit guilty about your paczki weakness, nix dessert after dinner or forgo the 3 p.m. sugar fix. Enjoy and happy eating!