Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!
We’ve arrived at the day before Lent, where everyone loses their minds and indulges before 40 days of meatless Mondays and fish fry Fridays. Chicago, while having faith from all corners of the world, is an incredibly Catholic-centric city – kind of like New Orleans. Growing up non-denominational Christian I never quite understood Ash Wednesday as it was not honored at my church. My mom, born and raised in the Catholic Church, gently explained to me the significance of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.
I have friends from all walks of life. King Cake, Rosca de Reyes, and paczki are all apart of my life during Mardi Gras season – my definite favorite being paczki. Time for a little history. Paczki (pronounced POWN-ski) is a traditional Polish donut like confection started in Middle Ages to use up butter, sugar, and fruit so they wouldn’t spoil before Lent. Traditionally Paczki Day is Fat Thursday, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Here in Chicago, Paczki Day is Fat Tuesday.
The most popular paczki are custard filled or filled with fresh strawberries and cream. My favorite bakery is Weber’s on the South Side, home to Chicago Irish, Italian, Polish, and Mexican. In my humble opinion (and several thousand South Siders), Weber’s paczki are the ONLY paczki. My alarm wakes me up at 2:30AM to go stand in line so I can get them fresh when they open at 4AM. Today raspberry filled topped with peanut butter, Oreo filled topped with Oreo crumbs, fresh strawberry and whipped cream, and a billion (give or take) cream cheese custard filled made it home with me. Heaven! Absolute heaven.
So, what does it taste like? Essentially a cream filled donut, but on steroids. The pastry is light and fluffy and the filling is not overly sweet. I am a huge fan of cream cheese on everything and having a pastry filled with it is a dream.
Last year was my first year making the early morning trek to Weber’s, and naturally I made it on local ABC News that morning. It only makes sense. This year I’m bringing my girlfriend, Breyon, of course, to join in the festivities. This tradition makes me feel truly Chicagoan. If you can stand the temperatures, please visit next year to get a paczki and let it change your dang life. I definitely plan on flying some to Joy next year for Mardi Gras weekend.
If you’re celebrating today be safe and shower off all the glitter afterwards!
I have a weird dislike of anything filled but cream cheese filled?! You have my attention!
Same, girl. Same. :p
Catholics are Christians.
South Side is capitalized.
I love your posts and look forward to them!
bless you I’ll make sure to correct it!
Love it when you drop in for a visit here, Abby! Sadly I’ve never had a paczski when visiting Chicago, but then, I have all my marbles so I’ve never gone to Chicago in February.
You absolutely are the wisest for this decision LOL
Hello – I appreciated your column, but just want to point out that Catholics are Christians. Plus, I am Episcopalian (also a Christian denomination!) – we have Ash Wednesday services and ashes are used to mark our foreheads as well.
Thank you for the correction! I apologize for the separation
Hopefully no one will be nasty about this, but Roman Catholics ARE Christians. I envy you your paczkis! My husband grew up RC and switched to the Episcopal Church when we got married. We’re pretty much agnostic now, but we did have pancakes for dinner last night, which is another Shrove Tuesday tradition to use up fat and sugar before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. We had them because we just got back from a trip and haven’t been grocery shopping though!
Oh! Honestly… I did not make the correlation and I appreciate this fact! I hope those pancakes treated you very right :)
After moving from Baltimore and coming from a Polish background, I was sad to find out Hattiesburg, MS was the Polish desert. We make over 5 dozen P?czki for my family of 8 plus friends, and soon will get started on making more pierogi and kielbasa for Easter. We keep as many traditions going as we can but I doubt my kids will ever forget P?czki Day growing up!
Oh my goodness! I grew up going to Webers! All year long. Oh my goodness, each week when my great grandma would visit we’d get a big box of just about everything from their bakery. I miss the chocolate eclairs, cinnamon bread….you really have me missing home. I’m glad you enjoyed all your paczki!
Their atomic cake casually makes me weep. It’s all very normal.
One of the best bakeries *ever*.. Weber’s.
I used to pick up their local newspaper advertising proofs from Mr Weber himself back in the day. When I first started with the paper and the twice weekly ad visits, he asked me what my favorite baked good was.. I said “..Anything apple”. He always has some amazing apple treat ready and waiting for me. The apple slices would just be heavenly.
I always appreciated his kindness towards me. It’s still a favorite bakery of mine. I stop in any chance I can.
Oh my gosh I love this! It really is the best bakery.
Oh how I miss Lent in the Midwest with the paczaki and Friday fish fryes. Sadly the west coast doesn’t have anything like it (at least in the Portland Metro area).
Currently waiting on my paczki dough to rise so I can fry my own. This year’s offerings are filled with either vanilla custard or plum jam. Both covered in sugar on the outside.
Holy YUM!!! I know they turned out SO DELICIOUS
Sounds delicious! Enjoy.
Remember when people used to say “p0wned” on the internet? The pronunciation is closer to that — POWN-SKI. (Avoiding the n sound as much as possible) Sometimes, people add an “s” (p?czkis), but p?czki is already plural. A single “donut” is p?czek. Most of them at stores and bakeries are just basic jelly donuts, but the real deal is like comparing brioche to wonder bread. They’re wonderfully indulgent and rich.
Thank you for the pronunciation help! I just sat here for 10 minutes trying to make sure I said it correctly lol
Oooh I wish I was eating a paczki right now!! You all enjoy!