Shrove Tuesday is for pancakes, fastnachts and pączki
February 12th, 2013
09:00 AM ET
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Talk about your Fat Tuesday!

We've sunk our teeth pretty deeply into Mardi Gras already, but New Orleans isn't the only float in the food parade.

Across the U.K., royals and hoi polloi alike flip pancakes in celebration of Shrove Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Dutch fry up fastnachts (a raised doughnut). Folks of Polish descent (and apparently, residents of Michigan) polish off plenty of pączki (extra-rich jelly or cream-filled doughnuts) with great, greasy abandon.

Video courtesy WTMJ

Why the coordinated chow-down? For many, Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent - a time a period of penitence and fasting in the Catholic calendar - and historically, fat, sugar and other edible excesses are off the menu until Easter. Feed now, fast later and remove all temptation from the house.

From "Pennsylvania Dutch Recipe Book" - 1964 (Culinary Arts Press)

From "Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking" - 1978 (Conestoga Crafts)

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Filed under: Cooking • Culture • Make • Mardi Gras • Recipes • Religion • Staples

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Whoa. Back to the Future.

    February 12, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  2. organiccocktailrecipes

    Thanks for sharing. This recipe looks fantastic. Pancakes are my sunday favorite!! Will add this to my list of things to try!

    February 24, 2012 at 4:44 am |
  3. dilly dally

    Thank you Eatocracy Editors for the vintage recipe post. I always love these.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Thank you! I aim to do more soon.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  4. Griff in Fairbanks

    Yes, I observe spirituality-based food traditions but not on any particular day ... my observations occur much, much more often throughout the year.

    That being said, I welcome and encourage continuation of the multitude of culturally and spiritually significant food traditions. The rich diversity within the United States is our true strength and a pleasure to experience.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  5. Jean Mc

    Being of primarily German descent and growing up in the country near Carlisle, Pa, great memories of my mother making a big batch of Fastnachts every "Fat Tuesday! Her's had a little nutmeg, no potatoes, were round and no holes and dusted with powdered sugar – my father, brother's and I consumed them within a very short time! I made them many years for my daughters during their growing up years here in Iowa. No longer make them due to trying to eat healthy – but how I miss them!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • DAT67

      One can go overboard with "eating healthy." Enjoying something like that once a year isn't going to destroy your health.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  6. kiki d

    I grew up in Lancaster, PA and live in northern NJ now. What I wouldn't give for a fasnacht today!

    February 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  7. Eva

    I moved from Arizona to Michigan 2 years ago and have discovered a different culture of food altogether. Alot of comfort food here from the mid-west that my grandma from Sheboygan used to make. I love it.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  8. Eva

    Hey gdnctr, how did you lose the weight? Want to say good for you on the loss. Although..mmm I love pastry. Have a great week everyone!

    February 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Ann Nahurska Kalivas good, such a treat!!! Great tradition!!!
    Chicago Polish bakeries are very busy now baking and selling them.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    April 20th of every year is a special holiday. I like to buy $420 worth of food for that special day. After a lengthy celebration with friends around the commemorative Hookah, we indulge in a feast of feasts. Celebrating makes us very hungry.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • coriolana

      If I promise to make a big pot o' gumbo can I celebrate with you?

      February 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Yes. Yes, you may.

        February 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  11. KWDragon

    It should be pointed out that paczki is pronounced "poonch-key," so you know how to ask. And, when done right, it is so much more than a jelly doughnut. I cannot stand the knock-offs, and I really miss the paczkis from Hamtramck, the old Polish neighborhood (and city) that was subsumed by the Detroit city limits. Amazing, sinful and special – perfect for celebrating before Lent!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  12. The best of the best

    Shrove Tuesday is for pancakes? EVERY day is for pancakes.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  13. Kelly G

    I'm Episcopalian, and our church does an annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. The kids have alot of fun with it.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  14. Sanbee, Knoxville TN

    I was born in Lebanon, PA and what I wouldn't give for a fresh Fastnacht right now!! Thanks for the article and the great memories.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mark Davies

      We make them every year but not because of the holiday. My grandmother used to make them and we always loved them. Now, we make them for our kids.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  15. cindy

    Do not leave out us in NW Ohio, paczki are so popular here over these two weeks or so !
    There is a substantial Polish community here in Toledo, so I think they know what a good paczki is! And how to pronounce it correctly. Personally I just look at them and admire such goodness, it would add a pound each if you ate one.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  16. Binny

    I used to live in Detroit, and I miss the packzi! There was a little polish bakery around the corner from where I worked, and they were the real, authentic deal. Sooooo good!

    February 21, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Cuong

      twburr on February 8, 2011 The Best slhoud had a couple of sprit drinks before he started that normally works to wear off the nerves, to bad im a best man on 3rd april, and i dont know what to say LOL

      March 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  17. gdnctr

    i had to look-up "pączki" – polish donuts – to find what they are. never heard of them before. i've heard 'em called "hoecakes" besides fastnachts, but "pączki" was a new one for me.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Anne

      Here in Michigan the Paczki is really popular. A local chain store has already come out with them in the last few weeks. Most of them are filled with jelly of different flavors. I don't eat them because I'm a diabetic. But to me the Paczki is just an old fashioned jelly roll.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:42 am |
      • Erik

        Anne – What you get at your local chain store are not traditional paczki, they are jelly donuts that they claim are paczki.

        February 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
      • gdnctr

        Mmmmmm, they sound good, Anne. I like mine plain with lots of Keller's© Salted Butter on them.

        February 21, 2012 at 8:16 am |
      • gdnctr

        Whoops, that should be Keller's®...

        February 21, 2012 at 8:18 am |
      • Donna

        In real Michigan/Polish old school households, paczki are a big and heavy sweet batter round fried donut (for lack of a better term) with rosepetal jam stuffed inside…but red raspberry jam with a touch of rose water, or a prune filling will do, as the ‘real McCoy.” That’s what I was raised on…my Mom is old school from Hamtramck and her parents were “off the boat.”
        The rest of the paczki you hear about…the ones with different fillings… are just made to please the masses of people hovering around the bakeries who wish they were Polish on Fat Tuesday…just a marketing tool, a filled donut in my opinion…they were never like this when I was a kid. The real Polish in Michigan know a real paczek when they see one. And the custard clown ones aint it!!!

        February 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
      • mel

        A real paczki has over 350 calories and over 27 grams of fat. You can taste the difference when it's made with all the authentic ingredients. Oh so good!!

        February 21, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  18. Betty

    We are Byzantine Catholic, and our "Lent" begins on Sunday at sundown. On "black Monday" we abstain from meat & dairy to signify the beginning of Lent.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Drumcode

      Why don't you stop eating all together?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  19. gdnctr

    traditionally, "fastnachts" were a way of "getting rid" of all flours, lard, butter, sugar etc before they spoiled,

    so there are many, many "recipes" for them. the potato-flour-based fastnachts are delicious and very, very filling, too. i might pick-up 1-2 today, as i've gone from 247lbs to 162lbs in 5mos, and feel great: back problems & leg sciatica gone, bp down 61pts, clothes from XXL to L, and i can "afford" 1-2 of them for breakfast.

    once a year, only...

    February 21, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • holyschmokes

      Wow! Congrats on losing the weight & yes, you do deserve the splurge! Enjoy! :D

      February 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  20. day

    I thought fastnachts are supposed to be potato based. What's with the recipes showing regular flour?

    February 21, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Nick

      The ingredients vary a bit. The ones I make don't have any nutmeg, for instance. I happen to use both potatoes (boiled then mashed) and flour for mine. My personal thought is there is a lot of variation in these because they were a traditional dish and as such, the recipes varied somewhat from family to family or area to area.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  21. gdnctr

    here in southeast penna, pa dutch country – york, lancaster etc – we have the fastnachts , and one needs to be selective about where one buys them. some are still hand-made, and they're the best. the machine-made taste okay, but just okay. if you can get them fresh, they're delicious, but 1 or 2 is the limit, as they'll fill-you-up very quickly and "stay with you" for the day. but, what the heck; it only comes one a year...

    February 21, 2012 at 5:49 am |
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