It’s about a month until Fat Tuesday, but the Big Paczki is in the window at Party Cake Bakery in Mt. Lebanon.
These aren’t the sort of thing you want to eat every day for a month or you will look like a paczki. They resemble filled jelly doughnuts, but the dough is very rich containing extra eggs and dairy. Traditionally, Catholics are supposed to fast from all eggs and dairy during Lent, so the day before (I’ve also heard it’s the Thursday before) they make paczki in order to use up all those perishable ingredients.
It’s pronounced “poonch-ki”. I am from a family of Polish bakers on my father’s side, and for some reason my father pronounced it “patz-ki”. Because bakers work at night and my father was usually coming home as we were getting ready for school, I ate baked goods every morning for breakfast growing up—fresh hard rolls and raised glazed doughnuts and plenty of other confections still warm from the bakery, so I know I ate a few of these.
And those goodies he brought home? Those were the baked goods that didn’t come out right, were misshapen or somehow imperfect and could not be sold. A long time ago, before we were politically correct, they were called “cripples”, and so were people in wheelchairs and leg braces and a whole host of other perceived imperfections. I cringe to think how carelessly everyone threw that word around not even thinking how painful it could be. But just like people with challenges who used to be called “cripples” (in my lifetime!), the baked goods deemed less than perfect were in fact just as good as the rest—it was their ingredients that counted, not their looks.
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