It’s the little things, like the fact that pączki aren’t readily available to me in Los Angeles on Fat Tuesday, that make me a bit homesick.
Perhaps it makes me a bit naive, but I never realized until after I moved to California that this tradition isn’t really practiced (by immigrants and locals alike) outside of the large cities throughout Midwest.
For the uninitiated, the pączki is a Polish donut. Made from fried dough, filled with fruit preservatives or sweet cream, then topped with powdered sugar or glaze, each pastry contains about 420 calories. The traditional reason for making pączkis is based on Catholic Lent practices: because no sweets cannot be eaten during the 40- period, people would use up all of the eggs, lard, sugar and fruit that they had in the home.
In Hamtramck, there’s an annual parade and two day festival dedicated to the confection. Pączki are so popular all over Metro Detroit (and some other areas throughout Michigan) that local supermarkets carry them. I have memories of people lining up to buy these.
There were a few locally owned Polish bakeries near my house growing up, so my mom would always have them at the house. Usually, she’d pick up an assorted bakers dozen with custard, strawberry, apple, blueberry and raspberry. For some weirdo reason, there would also always be a prune filled one. Because it was impossible to tell which pastry had which filling, it was kind of like playing Russian Roulette. Often, I would be the one to end up accidentally eating the prune one.
This city is a cultural mecca, but for some reason, the Polish are pretty under represented here. It looks like I would have to truck out to Santa Monica if I wanted to indulge myself.