FAT THURSDAY & PACZKI I’m of Polish heritage, and a tradition in my family, before the start of the Catholic Lenten season on Fat Tuesday (otherwise known as Mardi Gras) is to eat a deep-fried pastry called paczki. These tasty creations have the reputation of being high in calories and fat, and to not be on the modern list of foods that are ‘healthy’.
The planned purpose of the post was to dispel these myths by comparing the filled-bun’s ingredients and calorie count with those of other breakfast sweets. And to show runners that it wouldn’t be too exhausting to burn the calories needed to ‘earn’ one or two for the special occasion
Then I searched the internet and learned about Fat Thursday,or Tłusty Czwartek. According to an item from Wikipedia this day represents a traditional “Catholic Christian feast marking the last Thursday before Lent” which is “associated with the celebration of Carnival.” A time of fasting, the 6-week long period of Lent would not provide an opportunity for feasting until Easter. Thus, this Thursday was a day that became dedicated to the gathering of friends and families to “eat large quantities of sweets, cakes, and other meals usually not eaten during Lent.”
The way my mother explained it, the sugar, fruit, eggs, cream, and fat in the household would not be needed until Easter. To avoid spoilage and waste, the cupboards and larders were cleared of such items and used to make rich pastries. Wikipedia indicates that the most popular of these all-national Pre-Lenten foods are the paczki, from Poland.
Wikipedia says Germans have fist-sized ‘berliners’ donuts filled with rose marmalade, and the French have faworki dough fingers served with powdered sugar. In Spain celebrations include a “square pastry called a bizcocho (see also Bizcocho) and a round pastry called a mona.”
Who knew I could legitimately be within traditional boundaries starting to eat pączki a full six days before Ash Wednesday, the first official day of Lent?
Another entry in Wikipedia explains,”Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.”
There are numerous fillings, including plum, poppyseed, raspberry jelly, blueberry preserves, apple, lemon custard, and Bavarian crème, to name a few. Surfaces are dusted with granulated or powdered sugar, sometimes frosted, and occasionally plain.
Which leads to one of the points I was originally hoping to make in my Pączki post, that properly made, they are light and fluffy, not fat-soaked, heavy-tasting and weighted calorie bombs. If this is your experience, find another source, preferably an established ethnic bakery. If they are heavy it is because of the filling, not the fat. The same entry, mentioned above, says a bit of grain alcohol was added to the dough before cooking, which as it evaporated prevented the absorption of oil deep into the dough.
One last point. Although Fat Thursday is more popular in Poland, it is celebrated as Pączki Day in some immigrant packed centers in the USA. There are eating contests in Evanston IL and Hamtramck MI!
Okay now let’s get to the ingredients. Rather than provide a listing with calorie count here’s a recipe. You can check it out and determine for yourself how delicious it might be to celebrate February 8 (Fat Thursday) or February 13 (Fat Tuesday) with one or several. Add an extra mile of brisk walking each day from February 1 through February 13. At roughly 65-100 calories expended per mile depending on your weight, you’ll be able to afford this tradition!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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