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In our office today are boxes of doughy, sweet, greasy and goddamit, delicious filling-injected balls of dough called Paczkis..pronounced poonch-kees. That’s Polish, I believe, for “imminent death.” They look like jelly donuts, and many are stuffed with it, along with custard, various fruits and creams, only enhancing their effectiveness as desserts d’demise.
Indeed, inventive purveyors of comestible poison keep coming up with new ways to make paczki’s even more hazardous to one’s longevity. Note..the coney paczki, combining the nutritious elements of a chili dog with the pernicious pastry.
Why so harsh about a tasty treat? Oh, I dunno. Maybe because one of key ingredients is that renowned health food called lard. Perhaps they call it shortening because it shortens your life. The average paczek (the singular form of the word) will caulk your arteries with 11-22 grams of fat and pack 340-500 calories.
It’s all related to Fat Tuesday..the beginning of the Lenten season. The idea, I’m told, was the heavy use of lard is part of the tradition of emptying your cupboards of the stuff by frying up pastry in it.
They make a huge deal of Paczki Day around here. Polish bakeries work around the clock to serve the thousands of people who called in advance orders. Lines form while it’s still dark so folks can pick up their paczkis in time to bring them into work…in an effort to kill their inter-office rivals. It seems no one can resist eating paczkis despite their lethal legacy. I’m guessing more than one victim died with powdered sugar and jelly on his or her smiling lips.
I was brought up in NYC, and lived in Central New York State, Tucson, Arizona and Atlanta, Georgia before moving to the Detroit area in 1989 and Paczkis were available, or even heard of, in exactly none of those locations. Indeed, according to the CIA World Factbook, the average lifespan in New York State is 80.5..or 6th in the nation. Arizona ranks 18 with an average lifespan of 79.6 years. Meanwhile in Michigan, the average time on Earth per person is only 78.2 years..ranked 37th. See the correlation? Oh, Georgia? Well..you’re talking awesome Southern cooking where they fry everything from chicken to Crayolas. Down in Dixie they only live an average of 77.2 years….ranking 43rd. But I will never complain about Southern cuisine.
Since I grew up in a Jewish community, the only thing halfway equivalent was the heavy use of chicken fat. Grandma would toss it in anything “just to add a little flavor” and to elicit loud cries of “feh!” from anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the kitchen.
It’s kind of quiet in the office now and I’ve had my lunch. The fumes from the few remaining paczki have worked their way over to my desk. A nice lemon cream would make a fine complement to the sorry ham sandwich I brought from home. The doc just told me yesterday I need to lose some weight…and I will…but not today. I may not celebrate Fat Tuesday, but it would be wrong not to support my co-workers who do.
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