Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tłusty czwartek

The French do it. Germans do it. Heck, even the Hungarians do it. Certainly the Poles do it: on a cold bleak day in February, they stuff themselves silly with sweet breads, rich pastry, and in Poland -- with pączki (pronounced "pawn-chkee"). Much of northern Europe celebrates this caloric indulgence on the last Thursday (not Tuesday!) before Lent. Hence the name in the title of the post (in Polish) -- Fat Thursday.

People in America look at photos of pączki and say -- ah, doughnuts. Big deal, we do those as well.

Oh no you don't! I have never had pączki in the States that come even close to the real thing. A student once carted some for me all the way from Milwaukee -- a hotbed of Polish tradition. I smiled politely and thanked him for it but the verdict was once again: not even close.

To do pączki right you have to use rich, egg filled batter, you have to insert rose hip jam (plum jam will do, but purists would scoff), and you have to glaze the finished product with a glaze, flavored with bits of orange rind.

Like this:


My sister asked me if I was up for pączki, given that I was arriving in Warsaw on Fat Thursday and you know, I would be up for this even if it was lean Wednesday or skinny Monday. I absolutely love these guys, all the more so because Americans will replicate a mille feuille and they can, these days, put forth a decent pain au chocolat or a baguette, but they can't get pączki right and so you have to travel back to your home country (if your home country is Poland) to eat them.

I'm in Poland.

It was again the kind of trip that you hope for. Every leg was easy, smooth, without delays. The bus ride to Chicago gave me time to float between reading and dreaming. The flight from Chicago to Detroit was quick and beautiful.

in flight-1.jpg

The connection in Detroit -- just the right amount of time. And the long flight, to Paris? A breeze. Quite literally: the tail wind was so strong that I think no fuel was required. We arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule.

Perhaps the biggest glitch was the layover in Paris. At four hours, I have to admit, it felt long. But the food was good, my book (one of your recommendations!) engrossing and honestly, I did enjoy how unhurried it all seemed. Enough time to wash your face and twiddle your thumbs. And sometimes, that's a good thing.

Then to Warsaw where the high is 50 degrees as opposed to Madison's 5.

With my sister steering me, we shuttled over to her Warsaw home. Where we ate (she cooked veggies)...


...then we sat down to the real stuff -- pączki.