Pre-Lent: The joy of Pączki

Two pastry boxes of pączki. The box in the foreground contains 4 pączki, glazed. The box in the background contains four, powdered.

Several jobs ago, I went on a field trip at work to the print house that published our user guides (in the days of yore when we still printed user guides). They had a post card in their lobby that they produced for a record company or a radio station or something. It had image representations of bands spread over a cityscape. It had Alice in wonderland dragging lengths of chain like Jacob Marley (Alice in Chains), through a garden with fruit bushes (Cranberries) and a flowery arsenal (Guns and roses). There were apparently 50 bands represented in this small image. Each of us who attended the tour took one, and we spend weeks trying to figure them all out. We had a whiteboard dedicated to it. Good times.

I was reminded of that when, this week, the universe dropped something really  wild on my lap, right when I was imminently able to make magnificent use of it. The thing in question is the painting “The fight between Carnival and Lent” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The painting looks a little like a 14th century Where’s Waldo, in the best possible way. On the left, the inn, and all the excesses you might find there. On the right, the church. Between the two, a town square full of people:  pious god-fearing folks doing works of charity on the church side, and gambling drinking partiers rousing the rabble on the other. But my favourite part is the  battle. There’s a guy riding a barrel with a meat-pie helmet, carrying a pole full of meat advancing toward a slender nun on a wheeled platform with a platter on a pole, offering instead two fishes. Yes, the allegory of excess vs scarcity, played out in the early days of the Renaissance by the good people of the Netherlands.

I feel you, non-descript Renaissance village, I feel you.

Now’s the time of year when I think about the ways I’ll cut back on indulgences in my life to focus on my Lenten practise. But, I also really, really, like Pączki and kind of want to fall face first into a box of rose-jam filled ones. But I also shouldn’t have them because that much wheat will make me regret my decision to eat them. But I also still want to eat them.


So, earlier this week, my gentleman associate and I found ourselves in the Euro Market in Kitchener. In spinning this story now, 4 days later, I will bend the facts slightly to make it sound like we visited there to get the krakowska loaf and Prauger  ham that I love, and to get the kind of kielbasa that my GA loves – at the best price in the region. And we did get those things, along with a jar of rosehip jam. But between you, me, and the fence post, I wanted to go to see if they had the pączki. Alas, it was late enough in the day that they did not, and there were signs to indicate that if you wanted pączki for Tłusty Czwartek/Fat Thursday (Pączki Day) or Fat Tuesday, order forms were available.

But what, dear reader, is a girl to do if she wants her pączki for, say, Saturday, and neither Thursday or Tuesday? Go and try to get them early. So tomorrow, I saddle up and ride at dawn, erm… I return to the Euro Market to indulge my personal fight between carnival and Lent. And, because it’s good to have a plan, if they’re already sold out of the delicious, delicious rose-jam filled pączki, I can order them to pick up on Fat Tuesday. And I might even have enough restraint to not buy a whole box and have to eat them all on Tuesday night. Because as much as I’d like to say I successfully planned dinner for next week, 4 Pączki is probably not, strictly speaking, a meal.

For me, it’s the threshold to Lent, just a few days earlier than the pancakes on the menu next week. And really, I’d rather step over that threshold with powdered sugar all over my shirt (and, yaknow, everything else) than have the pancake. If you’re one of the folks for whom Lent is a time to give something up, maybe your threshold is a stellar cup of coffee or a blissful final piece of chocolate; Maybe it’s binging your favourite media before you give up the tech for 6 weeks. Everyone has their own path. May your journey be a cup-filling, soul-nourishing one

And so, friends, with my yearly Pączki post almost in the can, it’s time to gear up for the Spring Cleaning of my Soul for Lent 2023 project. For the next 40 (plus) days, we Prepare the Way.

Extra Credit:

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

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