Great inventions – Celebrating with donuts
Humankind has the obscure yet pleasing habit of inventing grand festivities to make room for big family reunions, massive food orgies, irresponsible amounts of alcohol intake. Many days were selected to have a good time and party.
The Catholic Church invented Christmas (adapting to pagan celebrations), mothers day was brought about by Miss Jarvis (not a mother herself but a loving daughter installing the tradition to cherish mums), medieval rituals of courtly love created Valentine’s celebrations based on the legend of Saint Valentine and…
…industry is busy selling chocolates, candy, presents and mass produced greeting cards.
Today, dear reader, I had the honour of celebrating Tłusty Czwartek, that is Fat Thursday. Proclaiming the last Thursday before Lent, Poles and Germans share the tradition of feasting big. Yet in Germany this day is marked more by a ‘fiesta’ than a ‘feast’, getting ready for the last and most crazy days of Carnival. In Poland, where I am now, this day is centred more around spoiling your sweet tooth.
Like many other holidays Fat Thursday became commercialized and uniquely transformed into the day of Polish pączki and faworki (donuts and dough fingers). Berliner are the popular equivalent in Germany.
After I arrived in Cologne from Szczecin as a kid in 1981, I quickly learned that my family has made it to paradise. Whereas in Poland people were happy to share a pączek, Cologne provided me with parades of sweets, thrown into the crowds from huge wagons during Carnival. Except that one day a chocolate bar landed right in my face, giving me a solid bruised eye and earning Tomek disapproving looks from strangers over a period of weeks.
Carnival is the event of the year in Cologne and dressing up gives at least as much satisfaction as eating donuts.
Fat Thursday in Poland is probably the most effortless traditions for most, as it does not require much preparation albeit giving immediate gratification. No gifts, no wrapping, no fuss. Just visit a local bakery.
Consuming delicious polish pączki with raspberry or rose fillings, I rewarded olfactory and gustatory organs, light heartedly clogging my arteries but let’s not go there.
The best sellers on Fat Thursday:
Pączki. Yeast cake fried in oil with a generous sugar coating.
Faworki. A complex matter, the dough requires a lot of yolk, kneading, cutting out and deep frying. Bow shaped, thin and crisp it has to be handled carefully or it will break.
Right next to the pączki in the supermarket brochure was this ad. The sweet temptation that is sugar. I sense unintentional statement to Fat Thursday diets.
Making pączki and faworki yourself is the privilege of only the most skilled Polish housewifes who have been largely replaced by bakeries and supermarkets. When I was little my mum and I transformed the kitchen into a professional faworki factory under the watchful eye and helping hand of legendary faworki maker auntie Zosia.
She was a master cook of this traditional and incredibly elaborate pastry. After auntie Zosia died at a fairly young age (not from faworki-overdose), faworki did not taste as good ever again. I am still searching for comparable faworki treats.
The new trend these fatty days come from the United States of Donuts.
Superstition declares that the person not having eaten a pączek on Fat Thursday will suffer an unlucky fate for the rest of the year. Tomek luckily just altered his destiny literally last minute, about nine minutes to midnight. Phew!
Making mooneyes at my pączek. I used to hate the sickly sweet filling and I am still prone to squeeze it out before munching on the yummy spongy part. If you like to be part of this sticky business, come to Poland! or visit Germany and have a Berliner!
Diets suck, see my sweeties?
Oh, and one more thing.
Have a nice weekend, folks!