FAT THURSDAY 2019 & 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, walkers, and exercisers 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.”
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.
The way my mother explained it, any 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. Mom had never told me that pączki-lovers could legitimately, within the old traditional holiday boundaries, begin eating the sweet treats on Fat THURSDAY, a full 6 days before Ash Wednesday!
“Pączki have been known in Polandat 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.” So says Wikipedia.
In my experience hunting for paczki in many locales across the USA I’ve enjoyed a variety numerous fillings, including traditional plum, prune, and poppy-seed, and modern raspberry jelly, blueberry and strawberry preserves, apple, lemon, custard, and Bavarian crème. The paczki surface is most commonly dusted with granulated or powdered sugar, but occasionally is glazed or plain. (if frosted it becomes a ‘bismarck’ or jelly roll, in my opinion.)
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 pastries, 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 abundant filling, not excessive fat. The same Wikipedia 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.
Okay now let’s get to the ingredients. Rather than provide a listing with calorie counts here’s a recipe.* You can check it out and determine for yourself how delicious it might be to celebrate February 28 (Fat Thursday) or March 5 (Fat Tuesday) with one or several.
Add an extra mile or two of brisk walking each day, starting today March 1 through 5. At roughly 65-100 calories expended per mile depending on your weight, you’ll be able to afford this tradition!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*Waiting in line on Fat Tuesday to buy paczki at local bakeries that specialize in making the annual treats, along with other hungry and happy people celebrating the day, is a unique community-bonding experience. It has been a cherished tradition of mine for decades. As such bakeries close and supermarket chains become the only places to find mass-produced paczki, it may be necessary to make them at home. Consider saving this recipe for later use.
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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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