Countdown to Lent 2022: Fat Thursday

A closeup of a box of glazed paczki in a cardboard pastry box.
Paczki from Grogowski’s Eurofood

Usually, around Epiphany, I think to myself, “Self, let’s see when Lent starts so we’re not surprised“.

Then, around Valentine’s Day (in years when Lent starts after Valentine’s day, that is), I think to myself, “Self, Let’s have another look at the calendar – Lent must be starting soon.” I want to be prepared, because my Lent Project takes some time for me to ramp up. This year, Lent starts later, as you can tell by the timestamp when you’re reading this. Funny how that works, huh?

But the point of Lent being to Pre-e-e-pare the way of the Lord (so says Godspell, so say we all!), it kind of behooves me to be prepared for the Lent project, amiright?

Anyway, the ramping up part has me looking for some reflection ideas – what have other people done? What are some themes to explore? I need this brainstorming, prep, and research time because sometimes the reflections come easily, and sometimes, they don’t. Theoretically, Inspiration comes from all over the place. The radio that I listen to on the way into work; or interactions that I have (or overhear) on public transit, or whilst wandering the mall, or just generally spending time in public. But we’re still on the tail end of COVID, so hanging out in public isn’t as common as it once was. I only spend time listening to the radio if I drive my gentleman associate to work (usually once a week). And I work from home full time now, so there’s no public transit interactions to use as fodder. And it’s still winter in Canada, so there’s not many people just wandering around outside, other than the dedicated dog-owners who are bundled up against the cold and not super social right now.

Which brings us to Fat Thursday. Way back, 10 years ago when I started doing the Lent Projects, the first post happened on Ash Wednesday. Sometimes, though, that felt like I had just strapped an ACME rocket to my backside like a cartoon coyote and launched myself into Lent. It’s hard to just cold-start the machine, as anyone who’s struggled with a snow blower in minus-20 degree (Celsius) weather can tell you. So I backed it up to Mardi Gras, because everyone (mostly) knows that the precursor to Ash Wednesday is Mardi Gras. But even then, Child can testify to the number of times that we scrambled to find loonies on a wintery Tuesday Morning so that he could participate in his elementary or high school’s pre-Lent pancake breakfast.

So now, I’ve got the process backed up to Fat Thursday. Which is technically culturally appropriate for me as a child of European descent (particularly the Polish half, in this case. Although Giovedi Grasso is totally a thing for the Italian half, too).

The good news is that my fingers, resistant to typing “Fat Thursday” for those first few years, have now  stopped trying to auto-pilot their way to Fat Tuesday five days early. Because Fat Thursday is a thing we do. The point of Fat Thursday (and repeated through Carnival and up to Fat Tuesday/MardiGras) was to rid your house of the rich foods that you wouldn’t be enjoying over the fasting time of Lent. You used up the butter, lard, eggs, and sugar (and fudgeeos and potato chips) so nothing would spoil over the next 6 weeks. That said, it seems a little disingenuous to *go out and buy * more things to treat myself. But treat myself I did, friends. I decided that I was disappointed by the sad little paczki sold 4packs in the sad white boxes in every supermarket in Canada. They were definitely not the paczki that I’d been pining for, so I needed an Polish grocery/bakery. On Winter Wellness day off of work at the end of last week, I ventured into Kitchener to source myself some authentic paczki.

Glogowski’s Eurofood in Kitchener (as the Googlez so helpfully told me) mentions paczki on their Facebook page. What could go wrong with collaborative media and participatory journalism that Facebook provides, right?

So yes, the good people of The Internet seemed happy with Glogowski’s. And the trip to Glogowski’s did provide my prize – and my two favourite flavours, no less – Plum, and Rose jam. Oh happy day!

 Friends, if you’ve never experienced the transcendent gastronomic joy that fresh paczki with rose jam inspires, you have not truly lived. I’m only slightly hyperbolizing this. I bought four of each flavour, gave half to my mom, and I regret nothing.

Technically, I didn’t wait until Fat Thursday to eat my Rose paczki. They were in mah belleh a full 5 days ago. And that was partly because it was a facet of my research. But I still feel like I’ve done my Polish duty – Statistically, every Pole eats two and a half paczki before Lent starts. Mischief Managed.

This Lent, may I be as committed to doing the spiritual work as I have been in the hunt for the perfect paczki. Strap in, kids, we’re preparing the way.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 3 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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