If my Twitter feed is any indication, my fellow Chicagoans are filling up on paczki, the last-minute-before-Lent Polish treat. Of course, it’s not just here; Hamtramck claims it’s the paczki capital of the world, and the Michigan-based Achatz Handmade Pie Company (yes, that Achatz family) makes paczki-inspired pies and lighter, brioche-like, baked paczki.
But it doesn’t seem like this was always the case. The first reference I found to a Paczki Day in the Tribune archives comes from a 1981 Jewel ad. Prior to that, the treats come up in reference to Fat Tuesday in 1966… but paczki had to share the city’s palate with fasnachts (like packzi but made with potato flour, which sounds amazing, and a bigger deal in Pennsylvania Dutch country), semlor (basically a packzi sandwich from Sweden, with cardamom and marzipan), and fastelavnsboller (Norwegian, like semlor only with whipped cream instead of marzipan).
All of which are basically in the packzi family. The exception was the British; the 1966 article cites Mrs. Michael Lewis of the British consulate following Callop Monday by ringing in Lent with–in the grand tradition of keeping British food as boring as culinarily possible, even for a big pre-Lent blowout–pancakes.
Photo: chadmagiera (CC by 2.0)