I knew nothing of Paczki until we moved to the Chicago area years ago. For those who haven’t heard of them, think: filled donuts. Originally a Polish specialty, paczki are now deeply Chicagoan. Available all year round at certain bakeries, their big day is Mardi Gras, when everyone with or without Christian heritage can have one last big treat before the forty days of Lent begins.
Even if you have no plans to go on a diet, stop eating meat, or any other mortification of the flesh between now and Easter, Mardi Gras reminds me that once in a while we should eat these treats. Traditionally, paczki came with apricot jam, prune, or poppyseed filling. Today, the sky’s the limit. I ordered my Fat Tuesday paczki from Lilac Bakery, just down the street from us. They make about twenty different fillings. New this year was banana, and key lime. I stuck to tradition because I like prune and poppyseed fillings and don’t usually find them in any other pastry, but I also got lemon and cherry/cream cheese, and all of them were a treat.
Even if I forget all about paczki until next year, I have a tasty memory of this year’s Mardi Gras, without a trip to New Orleans.