The good news: today it is your job to eat Pączki.
The bad news: you don't know what Pączki is, and it sounds like something contagious.
Never fear! I am here to introduce you to this traditional Polish sweet. Really, it's far more delicious than it sounds (pronounced--oh those crazy Europeans--"poonch-kee").
First off, what is it? Per Polish Heritage Cookery, "Pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with confitureor other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of driedorange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally, Spiritus) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough".
Or, to simplify it a bit, sort of but not quite a jelly doughnut--but possibly its European ancestor, with a richer, eggier dough. And not limited to just jelly for filling.
Why is it your job to eat them today? Well, as I learned from the internet,
In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during Lent.
So, today through thursday is kind of like "Stop! Packzi Time" (insert "Hammer time" breakdown here).
How can you enjoy them? In a few ways. If you're in Seattle like me, lucky you: they have them at Metropolitan Market locations, and at Bakery Nouveau for sure. If you're in the midwest, they're probably at so many places that you can't even count (at least this is my fantasy). But if no bakeries in your area have these treats on offer, there is a solution: make them yourself. Here's a recipe--but, you know, there's also one in this great book called Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home by my bloggy BFF Lara Ferroni.