Scalzi’s First Pączki 

John Scalzi

Weirdly, and despite my well-known love of deep-fried dough, I somehow made it through 53 years of life without ever once eating a pączki. I can give any number of explanations for this, none of them good; heck, I lived in Chicago for years, the heartland, if you will, of Polish-American culture, and yet still managed to miss out.

Well, no longer: Last night I stopped at the local Meijer to replenish my Coke Zero stock, and there was a small stack of pączki packages — on sale! — waiting for someone to take them home before the clock struck midnight and North American Pączki Day (i.e., the last day before Lent begins) faded into memory. I was that someone (I did also buy my Coke Zero. One must always stay on mission). I brought them home and shared one with Athena, because it was late and I did not want to eat a whole one right before bed.

Not surprisingly, I thought it was pretty darn good — close to but not quite like a jelly donut, with denser dough and not as sweet. A++, would eat again, and did, since I had another one this morning. I am relieved that this 53-year era of pączki deprival is behind me now. I have all the rest of my life to catch up.

For those of you who celebrate Lent, I hope this year’s season is a reflective and fruitful time for you.

— JS

23 Comments on “Scalzi’s First Pączki ”

  1. I don’t know, John. It seems pretty darn insensitive of you to discuss how the Pączki are only eaten the day before Lent, you bought one at the last possible minute, ate and enjoyed it, and then, the next day, i.e., on LENT, you ate ANOTHER one. In your face! Like eating bacon on Yom Kippur. Or Lunch during Ramadan!


    As a man of both Polish and Mexican heritage (I’m a Polexican!), I’m going to be that guy: technically you had a pączek.

    Pączki is the plural form, pączek is the singular.


    Glad you enjoyed them regardless!

  3. All of a sudden, I’ve been noticing them in several places down here in South Florida. The Fresh Market (nice store) has a package of 4 for $5.99, and I’ve seen them elsewhere too. You are tempting me, sir.

  4. As a Buffalo native, I am required by law to mention that Buffalo, NY, sister city of Warsaw and where Lech Wałęsa is revered, is ground zero for Polish-American post-Lenten celebrations. Buffalo is home to Dyngus Day, a week-long Coachella-like festival but with Pączki, beer, pierogi, and polka. Lots of polka.

  5. We love the Pączki we get from Meijer every year in February! Also congrats on the choice, the apple filled are the best, narrowly beating out (in our opinion) the blackberry and raspberry filled. Avoid the Bavarian Cream filled as these tend to lead to sugar headaches.

  6. It’s not my faith tradition, but perhaps “observe” is a better verb that “celebrate” for the Lenten season.

  7. Oooohhh, John – those pre-packaged big-box offerings are no where near the joy of a real paczki made by hand – preferably by a Polish grandma ;-)

  8. My only paczki experience was from a big grocery store in CT USA. They really did just seem like jelly donuts to me, and I’m not a particular fan of jelly donuts.

  9. Sigh… I miss Meijer. One of the few things since moving back Philly after 30 years in MI. Paczki more as their appearance as a sign of spring, than their taste.

  10. From the bottom of my Polish heart: what is this abomination?!
    I can forgive the apple filling, had weirder. But that shape?

  11. Oh, Meijers, it’s been a long long time since I’ve been in one. I remember the novelty of a store where you could buy a lawnmower and bread at the same time. They used to stay open 24h where I lived and bored/drunk college kids roamed the place in the middle of the night.

    I’d also come here to akchully pączki/pączek, but I see a fellow MX beat me to it. We’ve shared more than just accordions over the centuries!

  12. WAY too many ingredients listed on the label. Way too many that sound like a science experiment. And then “bioengineered” appeared on the label! No no no!! Please find a Polish grandma source for your future pączki indulgences!

  13. While housesitting in Roscrea, Ireland, I was glad to see a store that sold Polish groceries. It meant I could by perogies and borscht, two of the foods Ukrainian immigrants have made standard fare for western Canadians.

    We had invited an Irish couple over for dinner, so I thought I would introduce them to a new cuisine (apparently, the Irish, being culturally conservative, did not go into the Polish store).

    I served them perogies, boiled then sauteed in butter, smothered with fried onions and mushrooms, then covered in sour cream.

    Instant, massive hit. Next I heard, the couple were visiting the Polish store and sampling their wide variety of perogies (the fruit-filled dessert kind were delightful) and sharing the discovery with their friends.

    My little contribution to strengthening the EU.

  14. I grew up in the suburban Chicagoland area, and “Pączki Day” was never a thing there in the 80’s/90’s. I think they borrowed it from some other Polish-American town. In Poland, they celebrate on the previous Thursday. In fact, the first pączek I ever had was in Warsaw in 2010. It was a traditional rose jam filled pączek, and I was smitten. While on vacation, I also had lemon and custard pączki, and those were also delightful. They do a crackly glaze that’s similar to Krispy Creme, but shatters a little more easily. And on the old school ones, they add candied orange peel.

    Not really sure what separates some of these new-fangled American Paçzki, with their nutella fillings and elaborate toppings and whatnot from a generic Bismarck, but I will take any fried dough in anticipation of any religious observance regardless of whether I am an adherent to that faith (see also: sufganiyot), and I am in a town that has Blue Star Donuts, so I am prepared for all donut contingencies.

  15. Here in Portland, Maine, pączek are common enough that I have eaten them a number of times. And yes, they’re damn delicious.

    The Polish community was large enough in the 1800s through until WW II that one of the nearby Catholic Churches was solely for that community here.

  16. Reflective and fruitful sounds really, really good, actually.

    (so do the pączki, but my GI system would be in an uproar over them, so. Sigh. I’ll take the non-donut part of this post and be grateful for that.)

  17. I have not come across these delights before seeing them online this year; suddenly from a multitude of directions. Now I want to try them, but I suspect I will have to wait until next year…

  18. An ingredients list as big as a large price label?? I don’t think that’s actually real food. Still better than the bag of snacks I had on a plane in the States once that actually had no food at all listed in the ingredients.

  19. To those worried about the list of ingredients: there are two chemicals: sodium benzoate & potassium sorbate added as preservative. Given that this one had an egg filling (the ingredient list for that starts about half way down), personally I’d preder a small dose of preservative. All the other ingredients are food or food-derived. Citric acid? (One guess where you find that.) Ascobic acid = Vitamin C. Tocopherols = Vit E. (All are antioxidants, which is their purpose here. Preserving the flavor.) So anyway Scalzi, celebrate Lent with these things and don’t look back :D Beats the hell out of observing it!

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