The Making of a Paczki – For Fat Tuesday – Madi Gras
My friend shared with me the Legendary, Generational Secret Process to make Paczki – for “Fat Tuesday” – Mardi Gras. Paczki is Polish for a deep-fried donut, with a sugar encrusted outside, and a filling of your choice, inside. (No caloric estimates are available,) The required minimum digestive period is 2 days. But the Poczki ROI is Priceless. One Paczki is akin to Nirvana, the nectar of the gods, a delicacy beyond the imagination of mortal men – To die for. (Literally, if you eat too many.)
Lore has it, that people who ate 3 Paczki’s at one sitting, fainted from arrested breathing & heart stoppage, with the eerie appearance of their eyes rolling back into their head. (Do not try this at home, alone.)
The recipe for making Paczki is more treasured than “an ancient Chinese secret”. My friend’s family was “Blessed” with the wisdom & artistry of the “Grand Potentate of Paczki Production”, Pauline.
Pauline was a Polish cleaning lady, who cleaned my friend’s childhod home every Friday. But she was much more than that. She gave my 3- year-old friend “horsey-back rides”, while she scrubbed the kitchen floor on her hands & knees. She rocked him to sleep, after all her chores were done. And in between, told stories and played games, while always leaving a pristine, clean home. But, Pauline’s “Crowning Glory” was her annual production of “Paczki”, with prunes, for the Fat Tuesday, before Lent.
It was a magical, mysterious, moment, that only my young friend was allowed to witness.. Three days before “Fat Tuesday, the kitchen table was stretched to its maximum length. Then, a long, brown piece of paper covered the table. A mountain of dough was rolled flat, and cut into dozens of round shapes. A pit-less prune was placed in the center of each doughy circle, and rolled into a ball by hand. Dozens of spherical shaped, density defying objects were stacked on the counter next to the stove.
These doughy depth-charges were dropped into a large, white-speckled, blue metal pot of boiling lard. They sank to the bottom, then bobbed up to the top of the pot. When a light, brown crust appeared, they were carefully removed by a ladle, held in a rubber gloved hand.
Concurrent to all of the above activity, the kitchen table was cleared of the brown paper, dough-filled remnants, to make way for a new roll of brown paper ensconced in sugar, from border to border. The recently fried donuts were rolled over the sugar, again and again, until their greasy exteriors absorbed the maximum amount of sugar possible. These insulin overwhelming, diabetic nightmares were then placed into another blue pot, covered, and carried to the unheated front hall, until “Fat Tuesday”.
Then, with the ceremonial fanfare of a King’s Coronation, the blue pots of Paczki were carried to the kitchen, where the long table displayed glasses of milk and cups of coffee. Family members took their places, as platters of Paczki were placed before them. The cacophony of grinding teeth, slurping beverages, and inevitable groaning rivaled the distressing sounds of a medieval torture chamber.
At the end of the day, many were grateful for “Ash Wednesday” & Lent – 40 days of fast & abstinence.
Perhaps, that was the purpose of Paczki, all along.