I’m usually horrified and disgusted by eating contests. And that show on the Food Network where dude just travels around and does all the “Eat this obscenely large thing in a ridiculously short time frame” challenges is just gross. I’m offended at the spectacle of it. When there are so many who go hungry every day at the same time as there’s sports network coverage of a bunch of clowns eating until they make themselves sick, that’s not right. Come on, Ocho! Get back to Dodgeball. So when I was doing my research for Tłusty Czwartek (Polish: Fat Thursday), and it said that in Polish communities in large cities there are Pączki eating contests, I was disappointed. I mean, I guess there are eating contests for anything you can convince people to stuff into their gullet until they’re sick or they win… what? Some money, bragging rights, and a puff piece in news coverage that makes you look like a joke. Sounds *super*.
Well that escalated quickly… My intention as I began preparing for this post wasn’t to cast shade at the despicable cultural phenomenon of eating contests. I mean, I do make snarky disparaging remarks every 4th of July when the newfeed coverage invariably turns to the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. Victory, indeed. And I can’t seem to stop myself with the snarky disparaging remarks not-on-July-4th either. Ah, well. The snark is as advertised, at least.
I mean, there’s a Polish proverb that those who don’t eat a stack of pączki on Fat Thursday will have an empty barn and their fields destroyed by mice. That seems a pretty serious penance for not fulfilling your duty as a Polish citizen of the world. My mom’s heritage is Polish. It seems prudent for me to take one (or two) for the team, right? Why tempt bad luck for want of a delicious delicious delightful jelly doughnut. But I’m not convinced it’s prudent to see how fast you can shove them into your face without even being able to enjoy the pillowy dough and the perfect rose-jam (or lemon or raspberry or plum or custard) filling. That can’t possibly be in the spirit of the thing. I mean, maybe the European pączki aren’t the size of a dinner plate like their North American cousins, so a stack of them is a more rational indulgence (whatever that means) in the motherland(s).
I get it. Carnival is a time for over-indulging in order to use up all the things you want and/or need to get out of the house for the fasting period of Lent. Waste not, want not, right?
But here’s the thing. Does anyone else think it’s weird to see hot-cross buns in the bakery in, like, June? Or October? My mom used to bring them home in the spring – around Lent/Easter. She’d cut them, butter them, and grill them. So good. But it’s weird for me to see them outside that window. I associate them as the harbinger of a religious season – Lent. Pączki are the same thing. So when they just show up *whenever*, in boxes of 4 in the front display of my local supermarket, it’s messing with my religious calendar compass. Not everyone is religious, or is sufficiently of the Roamin’ RC variety to not hold that association. And bakeries are going to make what their vendors and patrons will purchase. Thus, June or October or whenever else is fair game. And in the same way as the now-seasonless hot cross buns, pączki have been randomly showing up by the entrance of my supermarket all year.
My pastry disappointments aside, it’s Fat Thursday, and that is a milestone in the RC calendar. Today we cross the starting line of the yearly Lent Project. This project is where the reflection efforts started, over 10 years ago. The goal is spring cleaning my soul. For me, it’s an exercise in examining my conscience, my bad habits, my human weaknesses in an effort to be a better person 7 weeks from now. So join me, friends, for a daily thinkythought that I’m using as a catalyst to better things. If you endeavour to make good things happen around you, when you look around, you see good things.
Here we go, friends. You should probably fortify with a pączki for the journey. Buckle in; we’re preparing the way.
1 year ago: Lent -5 Pooooosh-ka/