happy paczki day 2014

IMG_1288Happy Paczki Day 2014!  Honestly, I don’t think I can say it any better than I did last year, in my prayer for Fat Tuesday, so I won’t.

But do press this, my annual tradition of gleeful glee.  (Is the polka music no longer working?  Egads!)

I owe you a serious update.  There’s a lot going on.  But with my main laptop in the shop for at least a week with almost all my data, a half-working backup laptop that turns off when it decides it is tired of working, and a loaner from school — all in Week 9 — I’m a little scattered.

But in case you’re curious in the interim: I’ve been off milking goats at a farm stay; I’m co-curating a Special Collections exhibit on the past 500 years or so of science in the kitchen using rare books at the Knight Library; I just gave a keynote talk on 100 years of science in food to 450 captive souls at Pleasant Hill High School; I’m teaching two great food studies classes next term open to all UO students (see the teaser video for COLT 231 here); and I now have more egg recipes than a chicken.

Yes.  More soon.

a prayer for fat tuesday: paczki day 2013


A souffle-waffle experimentIMG_4320A slice of chocolate mousse cake from Bon Appétit circa 1980IMG_2878Truth in Portlandia

Thank you, cruel Dominates of Moderates, for leaving your groveling minion one last day of respite: Fat Tuesday, the day we celebrate all that’s excessive and fat and delightful in carne-vale-esque fashion.

For I sing (softly and despairingly and despondently at times, but I sing) the body electric, for those of us who look like paczki and act like paczki, for we endeavor to lick the creamy filling out of our mortal days on earth.  I sing against watering down bourbon and decreasing diversity and kneecapping the tasty and pleasurable and loving.  I sing against the heart made of stone and the heart heavy as a stone and the body denied and the breath captured and the unseeing eye and the muted word, even though I know that Lent will still come and what will rise in the place of pleasure is not nearly enough.

But today, wearing my new perfume — no, not THAT perfume, Jesus — I will sally my pączek form forth into the daylight, and greedily, desperately, try not to feel the legacy of enforced continence, the pinch of the present, the undeniable, frightening, slouching-toward-us-inchoately horrors of the future.

Nothing better we can do, really.

Culinaria Eugenius Paczki Day coverage throughout the years can be found here.

happy paczki day 2010!

For the first time in 10 years, I had authentic paczki for paczki day!  Holy Donuts made a batch just for people like me, reasonable people who celebrate the day before Lent in Polish-American style.  Hooo yah!  I stopped by the shop twice (slightly accidentally) and watched all the good vibes flowing for their “Donuts 4 Donations” Haiti fundraiser, raising money for a local friend’s group that sent medics and midwives to help the relief effort.

Hope you celebrated your Fat Tuesday in a similarly pleasant way.  I don’t observe Lent, but I’m feeling that I might need to do penance for the rich, eggy, oozing raspberry jam fried doughs of deliciousness that sacrificed themselves to me today.  On the other hand, Karen, when will you be making more?

happy paczki day!

It’s Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras. We celebrate the Polish version — Paczki Day. Paczki, pronounced basically /PONCH-key/, are jam-filled donuts with a fine crumb and a rich taste. One article I read describes them as “tennis ball-sized pastries deepfried in lard.” Paczki Day is celebrated mostly in the Polish-American enclaves of the Midwest, although we did manage to score a great box of genyooine paczki at the Big Y in Mansfield, CT, one fine year. This article provides history and some recipes, which are probably better than the one in my first Polish cookbook, which yielded what could only be called paczki crepes. One of these years I’ll try to make them again, especially since all we can get around here is donuts at Safeway. We have the Zolotoy Petushok Russian deli in Eugene (and of course, the nearby Albany institution, Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant), but no Polish bakery.


I grew up in the Detroit suburbs, but didn’t really celebrate Paczki Day until high school, when I began with the zeal of a born-again paczki-thumper and haven’t stopped since. My great-grandparents came to Michigan and raised their children in Detroit, like many Polish families around the turn of the twentieth century, forming a community that still spoke Polish at home and kept Polish traditions alive in schools, shops and churches. By the time I came around, the families had long since moved into the suburbs and Polish neighborhoods like Hamtramck were in decline, as was much of Detroit. My exposure to Polish-ness was a few phrases and songs and my grandma’s cooking. Mmmm…Easter soup, kielbasa, city chicken, Polish rye bread, fresh horseradish. And it was the message to stay away from Detroit because it was dangerous.

Still, I get an ancestral pang when I see images of Detroit, a city that’s been swallowed up by a recession and its insidious opiate– the casino culture that I find truly horrifying. It’s the ache of being unwanted and misused. It’s horror at the wasteland of a once-vibrant midwestern city, and worse yet, one that bred my people and gave them a safe place to land when they began their American journey and rests their bones in forgotten cemeteries on odd lots in the city. It’s the loss of one particular community at one place and one time. It’s hopes that were scattered far beyond the streets of Hamtramck, falling into the crevices and furrows of other neighborhoods and other cities. It’s my America.

So here I am. I collect international cookbooks and live in Oregon and sit in California chairs and drive Japanese cars and celebrate Passover with the zeal of a born-again brisket-thumper. Hamtramck, I hear, has undergone a bit of a revitalization, and there is a hipster community of musicians and artists, many folks who care very much about the place. I encourage everyone, therefore, to reach into that bakery box for some paczki, because some things in life are worth tradition and some things beg to be reinterpreted, renewed, reborn. Make mine a Marionberry.