For the month of March, I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.
6/31 Paczki Day #sol19
March 5, 2019
Paczki Day came into my life in about 1990. While an administrator, a teacher brought in these amazing jelly doughnuts on Shrove Tuesday. I apologize now to all Paczki aficionados particularly in my own family. I now know that Paczki and jelly doughnuts ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
So… some back story. I am a Midwesterner. I grew up in Southern Illinois, moved to central Illinois, northernish Indiana, and then to a Chicago suburb in the mid-eighties. Legend has it that Chicago has more Polish citizens than Warsaw. This may or may not be apocryphal. However, Shrove Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins is a deeply seated tradition in many communities. The idea is to rid your household of fats and sugars before lenten obligations begin.
Back to the story… after that introduction in 1990-something, Paczkis on Paczki Day became a thing in our family. We searched out excellent Paczki we had heard of and stuck to generic grocery store Paczki when we didn’t have a lead. Regardless, there were Paczki EVERY SINGLE Paczki Day at the Kennedy’s. (not a Polish family) It helps that all of us were doughnut fans and jelly doughnut fans. I will say as reference that up the sugar and fat content of a jelly doughnut and you have a Paczki. So Paczki are a Kennedy family tradition.
Then most of us moved to the east coast… There really weren’t any Paczki or least they weren’t at every grocery store and corner market on Shrove Tuesday. So as many of our midwestern family traditions, we let one more tradition fall by the wayside. Enter 2014 or so, our oldest son, a hold out in the midwest, dropped to stay with us for a few months in January and stayed through… Paczki Day.
As was typical in our old lives, days before Paczki Day, he began to talk about getting the Paczki. Bob and I were gentle, but looked him in the eye and said, don’t think there are any Paczki here. That’s a Chicago thing, bud. He, being him, would not be deterred. Using his twenty-something google skills, he found a bakery on the Southside of Boston that was Polish and made Paczkis. He got up early on that Tuesday, drove into the city, found the very small bakery, had a rousing chat with the baker, and returned home with most of the Paczki he purchased. This was no small feat. Finding places in unfamiliar or familiar Boston can be amazingly surprisingly difficult. That’s our P. though, he would not be stopped.
So that year we had Paczki.
Every year, P. admonishes us for not driving to the city and getting the Paczki. It seems like such an effort for a… jelly doughnut. He is disgusted by our lack of spirit.
Last year, we accidentally came upon a Polish bakery in Salem, Massachusetts in fall when we were visiting the Peabody-Essex Museum. We were thrilled about Paczki and bought a half a dozen. The young women behind the counter I am certain thought we were crazy. It was a wonderful treat, but not quite the same six month before the holiday.
I looked up a recipe this year and was poised to attempt my own Paczki, but then… last week I heard a commercial on the radio that a local(ish) grocery store had Paczki! The search started anew. I looked up where the groceries were, 10-15 miles away from our house. Maybe not… Then Bob called a local store, part of a New York grocery chain. Sure enough they were making Paczki that very morning for the first time.
We drove to the store, waited in line, ordered custom Paczki (raspberry filling), waited for them, and this morning, Paczki are waiting for their holiday on my kitchen counter. Tradition lives!
When I told my oldest son about our adventures, he commented drolly, you should have gone to that nice baker in Southie, she makes 700 Paczki a day…