Simple Things, March 1, 2012

At times a photographer forgets to take shots of the every day things.  To help us remember these important shots of real life, a group of photographers that I am involved with have decided to start a little blog series called "The Simple Things."  Every month we will photograph one of those simple moments in our lives.  (My post last month was Curious George Reads a Book.)  At the end of the month we each will make a blog post and share our stories.  At the bottom of each blog post will be a link to another photographer in the group so you can share her story, forming a complete circle of stories.  I hope you will enjoy these posts of "The Simple Things."



In May of 1917, my Busia (pronounced "boo-sha;" it is one of the many ways to say "grandmother" in Polish), Julie, was born.  That's her on the left.  

I took that picture in September of 1999.  Busia grew up in Minneapolis and spoke only Polish as a child, but eventually she moved to Wisconsin and gradually forgot a lot of her Polish.  She did not, however, forget her Polish heritage and traditions.  When she died in September of 2001, I inherited one of her cookbooks.  And I inherited many of our Polish family traditions, too, one of which is Pączki Day.

Pączki, pronounced like a cross between "poonch-key" and "punch key," are filled yeast pastries.  Click here to see one kind of pączek and to hear it pronounced correctly.  Then come back.  I'll wait. 

Traditionally, pączki are made and eaten on the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins and good Polish Catholics have to give up their sweets, their meats (lard, butter and eggs were considered byproducts of meat so those things were used up in the pączki) and their booze for forty days.  Other people call it Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.   [From here on I am going to spell "pączki " with an English "a."]

Every year on Pazcki Day my boys and I spend the afternoon carousing in the kitchen.  Admittedly, I don't make traditional Polish paczki with the yeast, and the kneading, and the eggs from the henhouse we're supposed to have, and the fillings.  We make plain old sugared cake doughnuts. That takes long enough!

So this year on Paczki Day we started with my four-year-old son mixing up the dough.

Busia's cookbook has a recipe for paczki that includes twenty egg yolks.  "An excellent Polish cook uses as many egg yolks as she makes paczki," it reads.  I am only half Polish.  Which makes me a very average Polish cook.  So two eggs it is!

Busia's recipe also calls for a jigger or more of rum.  Another Paczki Day tradition is to toss into your pastries any leftover booze you may have hanging around in the cabinet, so you can get rid of it before you have to give up drinking for Lent.  

No, I did not do that.  What kind of mother do you think I am???

So after your dough is mixed (with or without booze), you have some time to kill while it chills.

We chose to spend the time with a little rolling pin air-guitar.

We also had a jumping jack contest.  I won.  I rule.  Bow to the Mamusia.

So once we'd chilled our dough, my older son rolled it out to about a half-inch thick.

He cut out the outer circle shapes and we used a little medicine cup to cut out the holes.  

I heated up a big pot of oil to three-hundred seventy degrees and fried those beauties up until the entire house smelled like the Minnesota State Fair.  

A great way to coat them in cinnamon-sugar is to put the seasoned sugar into a paper bag with a warm doughnut and shake it.  I didn't take a picture of that.  Well, I did, but... I really think you're bright enough to figure out how to do that on your own.  Who wants to see a picture of a paper bag?  You want to see some deep-fried sugary goodness.

Here they are.  Older son gives them the thumbs up.

Smacznego!  Happy Pączki Day!  (DziękujęBusia.)  

For more Simple Things, visit the wonderful photographer, Helen Savage of Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

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