CHICAGO -- Dinkel's Bakery is a Mardi Gras madhouse on the morning of Fat Tuesday. A few patrons grab for coffee and king cakes in the 92-year-old North Side bakery, but what everyone is really there for are the paczki.
In cities around the country and particularly in the Polish communities of Midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, "Paczki Day" is a beloved tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.
Making the fried, cream-filled paczki was a way observant Catholics could empty their stock of lard, sugar, eggs and fruit — foods typically avoided during the Lenten fast — before Ash Wednesday.
At Dinkel's in Chicago, the fryers have been working overtime since Paczki Day officially started last Thursday. An employee estimated that as of Tuesday's morning rush, the bakery had made roughly 18,000 paczki and would continue frying throughout the day.
In Hamtramck, the heavily Polish enclave of metro Detroit, groups like the Polish League of American Veterans have hosted paczek-eating contests and a neighborhood bar, Small's, serves up vodka-filled mini paczki (dubbed "paczki bombs.")
(See Paczki Recipes and more below)
- The singular form of "paczki" is "paczek."
Want to make your own paczki? Check out our recipe for the fried treat below!
Kate-Abbey Lambertz contributed to this report