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Michigan’s Paczki Tradition

I’m excited! Today is one of my favorite holidays! Even though I don’t observe Lent, I’ll join the thousands of Michiganders who line up at the local bakery to buy a box of Paczkis on Fat Tuesday.

paczki

Until I moved to Michigan, I didn’t know what a paczki (pronounced poonch-kie) was. Basically, they’re doughnuts, but they’re made with extra-rich dough and stuffed with a variety of sweet fillings, usually fruit. Then they’re frosted or dusted with powdered sugar. I can get behind any holiday that’s celebrated by eating doughnuts!

We can thank the Polish Catholics from the Middle Ages for inventing Paczkis. They made them to serve on Fat Tuesday, so they could use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in their homes before Lent. During Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, they gave up eating sweets and didn’t want to just leave the food to rot for weeks.

Paczkis became a part of Michigan’s Fat Tuesday tradition in the early 20th Century by way of Detroit bakeries owned by Polish immigrants. First, they produced the Paczkis just for other Polish Catholics, but eventually people outside The Motor City’s Polish community learned about the goodness of the Paczki and started buying the rich doughnuts too. From Detroit, the tradition spread out all across The Mitten State.

Today, you’ll find Paczkis for sale on Fat Tuesday at bakeries, grocery stores and even gas stations all over Michigan. Doughnuts are something almost everyone can agree on, and folks from every ethnic and religious background wait in line, sometimes for hours, on Fat Tuesday just to indulge in the decadent treat.

I stumbled across Paczkis at a West Michigan bakery about 10 years ago. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name, but one bite, and I was hooked. I introduced them to the rest of my family. Now they all get excited when they see the billboard in front of the bakery emblazoned with a reminder to, “Get your Paczkis for Fat Tuesday.”

Blueberry filling is my favorite, but Paczkis come in many varieties like strawberry, apple, chocolate, custard and even peanut butter. I prefer mine with a cup of coffee, but they also pair well with a glass of milk.

A sweet, fat-filled Paczki is the ultimate comfort food. I think that’s why they’re so popular in Michigan. Fat Tuesday falls at the end of our long winter, just when we all need a pick-me-up to push us through to spring.

So, go get your Paczkis before they’re all gone and indulge in this tasty Michigan tradition!

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