Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
‘Tlusty Czwartek’ (so called Fat Thursday) is a Christian feast celebrated on the last Thursday before the Lent. Traditionally it is a day when people eat big amounts of sweets and cakes – that are afterwards forbidden until Easter.
Fat Thursday is especially popular in Poland and Catholic part of Germany. As the date is closely connected with Easter and beginning of the Lent, Tlusty Czwartek belongs to moveable feasts. The next Thursday falls already after Ash Wednesday – that is the period of the Lent when the Catholics should restrain from overeating.
The most popular sweets during Fat Thursday are ‘paczki’ (fist-sized donuts) or ‘faworki’ called also in some regions ‘chrust’ (French dough fingers fried and served with powdered sugar). The donuts one can fill with marmalade or briar and cover with powdered sugar or sugar-icing.
However, Fat Thursday used to mark the beginning of Fat Week – the period of great gluttony during which our ancestors would eat loads of lard, bacon and all the kinds of meat consumed with vodka. Nowadays Fat Thursday is associated especially with donuts, therefore on that day confectioneries are besieged by Poles who wish to purchase ‘paczki’ (donuts) to celebrate the feast. One of the old superstitions says that the one who does not eat any donut on Fat Thursday will not succeed afterwards. But the Poles do not feel endangered with this superstition – an average Pole eats on Fat Thursday 2,5 of donut while the whole country eats almost 100 million of them altogether.
The first donuts did not remind those that we know nowadays. Those made of the same dough as bread, filled with pork fat and fried on lard were popular until 16th century. Only afterwards they were made in a sweet way. The most important secret is that the confectioneries do not make them in advance – every respectful cake shop should make ‘paczki’ the night before the Poles reach the shops to buy them. But Polish ‘paczki’ are still different than so called donuts or similar sweets made in other countries. Their dough is made of yeast, flour and eggs. Polish paczki are fried in deep oil (or lard) only for several dozen of seconds (so that the fat would not soak inside). They taste the best when still warm. Some people used to fill few of them with almond or nut instead of marmalade – while encountering this exquisite filling was supposed to bring good luck.
Although many housewives make ‘paczki’ and ‘faworki’ at home, one can still see crowds of people standing in the line at confectioneries to buy this Fat Thursday’s specialties.