For you yesterday may have been Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Pancake Day or what you want to call the day before Lent. For this girl, it was Paczki Day.
Paczkis are the best doughnuts on earth. They’re these enormous hunks of dough, usually cut in half and stuffed with fruit and/or cream. Then there doused in powdered sugar. Variations are more jelly doughnut-y, but they’re just as tasty. It’s the kind of doughnut you dream about but should only have once a year. That’s because you spend the other 364 days digesting and/or working off the calories they contain.
Paczki Day is somewhat special to me because I’m half-Polish, which maybe you figured out by the strategic placement of consonants in my last name. I’m half-Polish by blood, but I’m also half-Polish in the sense that I’m not very Polish at all. Pollock sometimes, but in terms of my actual heritage, the only real Polish thing I did growing up was eat kielbasa at holidays.
When I moved to Chicago, I instantly became more Polish than I had ever been. You can’t help it–I think there’s something in Lake Michigan. My old employer would celebrate Paczki Day, which entailed one assistant purchasing hundreds of paczkis in every flavor possible and laying them out on the biggest conference table in the office, after which the entire staff would descend on the conference table and eagerly pick out their hunk of doughnut. If you were greedy (or “hungry”), you eventually went back for seconds. If you were my one co-worker Katya, you ate a third, which was the bad choice of prune, and you spent the afternoon conducting personal nuclear tests in the bathroom.
Here in Boston, paczkis have an identity problem. They don’t really exist. Since paczkis weren’t pushed to me, I generally didn’t remember Paczki Day until it was too late, spending time on that fateful Tuesday searching for a non-grocery bakery that sold them, but never lucking out.
Until this year. I’d been able to suss out that Boston has a Polish Triangle, and within that triangle, there’s a Polish deli/bakery/grocery that sells them. Excellent. I hauled over to the Polish Triangle, which I’m guessing (hoping) used to be more than a store, a restaurant and a church; but what little Polish population was in Boston seems to be seeping out. They had a few large bakery boxes of fried gold on top of the deli counter. This was the only place you could get paczkis in the city, and they only had two flavors: raspberry and prune. And they looked more like jelly donuts than the paczkis I’d been waxing poetic about to my Boston friends. But there they were. I took ten.
Then I checked Facebook and someone mentioned a bakery in Salem. I quickly looked it up on my phone and saw the pastry I’d been talking about. I called and reserved the last of the strawberry, as well as a few blueberry and raspberry for good measure (and because buying a dozen was cheaper) and hightailed it up to Salem. It was totally worth the trip:
I had my fill last night — enough to make up for the last few years and then some. Now I can dream of this to hold me over until next year.