Gone green and can never go back…and I’ve lost Paczki day.
One of the coolest things I discovered when I moved to the Chicago area was how seriously folks in these parts take their “Fat Tuesday.” Not “Mardi Gras,” with it’s implications of all kinds of excess and released inhibitions and all (Midwesterners don’t generally release their inhibitions, IME), but just the basic Eating Crazy Lots Of Food kind of overindulgence. Marrying into a Polish family makes it even better, because among the Poles, yesterday was PACZKI DAY!
(It’s pronounced “Poonch-key,” or “Pohn-shkey”–it should have a little Polish diacritical mark under the “a” which renders it dark and nasal.)
Paczki are basically really big jelly doughnuts, but that description doesn’t even touch the reality of the genuine paczki from any reputable long-standing Chicago-area bakery. They are all a little different, and everyone has their preference, and they come in dozens of different flavors. And every year I’ve loved them…then over the past year I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Matters, and watched Food Inc., and basically cut almost all forms of processed food from my family’s diet…lots of organic, almost nothing articifial. It’s just the way we eat now, and it’s literally taken only a year to get there, and somewhere along the way we’ve gotten automatic about it enough that I don’t pay much attention any more.
And then last night my husband brings home the bag of paczki. Big jelly-filled globes, soft on the inside and just a little crispy on the outside, deep-fried but done so perfectly that they were light and wonderful and not the slightest bit heavy or greasy…he brought one each of several flavors, and we cut them up into pieces and sampled each flavor…
And every single one tasted of that oogy Artificial Fruit Flavor stuff that is in so much of the food we never ever eat. I hated them. Not one tasted actually like the fruit it was theoretically supposed to emulate. You know the flavor I mean? The one you find in Kool-Aid and Jello and Hostess pies?
I feel really disillusioned.
So I did a little online search (this is me, of course)–and while I didn’t find anything of use when I looked for “organic paczki Chicago,” I did find a recipe for baked doughnuts and a blog post by a woman who tried to make baked paczki using that basic recipe…I may have to try those next year. (or maybe this one. Or this…) With real fruit.