While everyone is busy freaking out about how many calories are actually in their thrice weekly extra-chicken, extra sour cream Chipotle burrito, I’m too busy not giving a toot. Why? Because yesterday was Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Paczki Day. That’s “Poon-Shkee” for the unitiatied. Bet you thought Fat Tuesday was it, right? Had enough King Cake have you? Well I regret to inform you the feast ain’t over until the fat lady… eats a ton of paczki. So if you didn’t get to it yesterday, reserve at least one day this week for paczki, OK?
In lieu of that burrito I might normally be pounding at lunch, I’ll be stuffing my face with all manner of Poland’s much more decadent take on the jelly doughnut. Nay, dismissing a paczek as nothing more than a jelly doughnut with a weird name would be understating the virtues of this most decadent stuffed dough ball.
I’m from Michigan, home of a sizable Polish population, which means I grew up around people who took their paczki and Paczki Day seriously–it’s truly a holiday in and of itself. In Hamtramck (the Polish enclave in Detroit) people line up in the freezing ass cold for hours to grab boxes full of way more paczki than anyone should ever consume ever. Thankfully/unfortunately I haven’t been able to escape this tradition by moving to Brooklyn, home of Greenpoint and all manner of Polish food stuffs.
I’ve never considered myself much of a doughnutsman but growing up, that never mattered. When people arrived to work or school with the telltale red and white box I knew I’d be obligated to jam at least a few of these unbelievably large treats down my gullet. The immediate sensation was one of pure powdery/gelatinous joy, shortly followed by a sugar rush not far from a cocaine high in its intensity and longevity, then the inevitable gut rot made worse by fierce feelings of shame and regret. Did I really eat five of those? In one sitting? Will I die?
The answer was yes, eventually but not necessarily from paczki consumption. Funny enough, even in the absence of the same paczki fever that strikes Hamtramck and people deliberately trying to poison me with doughy delicious diabetes pastries, I’ve continued the tradition on my own. But whatever–Paczki Day comes but once a year. That’s why I’ve taken the time to hit up not one, but two quality paczki-rias in Greenpoint–the beloved Peter Pan on Manhattan and one a little farther up the street you might not notice, but is definitely more reminiscent of the tiny bakeries in Poland, aptly named Old Poland Bakery.
If you missed out on Tuesday, we suggest hitting up Peter Pan for a decadent, doughy super-sweet Americanized take on the paczek with a blast of jelly in the center, and Old Poland for a less sweet, more bread-y, denser treat with a humble dab of something closer to sweet preserves in the center.
However at some point the notion of calorie count invaded my thinking about paczki, maybe at or around the time Michigan was pulling ahead in the race for fattest state (it’s now fallen to 11th place along with a slight decline in the obesity rate). When someone’s mom handed me a paczki it came with the bonus of a fun fact, “One paczki has 500 calories.”
Even though it’s pretty self-evident from looking at a colossal, fist-sized powdery pastry that too many of these might kill you if they were incorporated into your afternoon snack ritual, for a long time this was all I heard about paczki. I guess the fact that they were delicious and amazing, once-a-year treats was old news.
So why am I even talking about calorie counts? To prove that Americans are dumb and fat? Well, I guess partly. But also, Paczki Day is a reminder of how Americans are pretty awful at knowing when to throw nutritional caution to the wind (i.e. not every freaking lunch hour). So stop going to Chipotle–even though it’s no longer a subsidiary of McDonald’s, it’s still fast food and still follows all the tenets of its genre: huge, calorically dense servings that derive any flavor they might have from sugar, and/or high levels of sodium and saturated fats, and are meant to provide instant satisfaction for a low price.
I mean there are all sorts of more fun ways to abuse your body, why waste that opportunity with a burrito that tbh tastes like a chew toy unless you dump hot sauce all over it. Instead rid yourself of daily food comas and join me in binge-eating paczki all day for at least one day this week.