Things were a bit different for our family when we first moved to Wisconsin. Our children learned very quickly that manners were less important there. Loud laughter filled the classroom when my son promptly stood and said, "yes ma'am?" when the teacher called his name. Children were on a first name basis with parents of their friends. The water fountain was called a "bubbler." And so many little things, unimportant to adults but crucial to a middle school child. But being adaptable kids, my children soon learned the ways of the region. But they still had to say "please" and "thank you," "yes ma'am" and "yes sir." I insisted on that.
My husband and I learned new things as well. That hardly any restaurant served grits for breakfast. That people ate more brats than hot dogs. That every bar and most restaurants had a fish fry every Friday. That a popular Milwaukee appetizer at parties was called a "cannibal." Made with raw freshly ground steak mixed with raw egg, it was served with onions, capers and seasonings and served on rye bread. BTW: there were at least three major e. coli outbreaks linked to eating cannibals while we lived there. And no, I never once wanted to try one although they were often served at parties we attended. That the break rooms at work were often filled with hard rolls and butter.
And in February the office was abuzz with everyone talking about punch key [sic] day. Folks looked rather amazed when I asked what on earth punch key day was.
It seems that the word that sounds like punch key or pontch-ki is actually the Polish word "paczki." I always thought of myself as well-read but somehow I had never encountered that word. But you won't live in Milwaukee during February without learning all about pacskis. They are heavy, luscious, deep-fried pastries, usually filled with a jam and/or custard filling. Glazed with icing or powdered sugar they often are decorated with orange zest. Paczkis look like filled doughnuts but are made with a much richer dough. They are a special treat on Shrove Tuesday, the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday.
They originated in Poland in the Middle Ages and became a popular way for Christians to use up their remaining sugar, lard, and fruit, all of which were forbidden during the Lenten season. Unlike many metropolitan areas, Milwaukee still has large numbers of small local bakeries, especially on the South Side. The bakeries opened no later than six on Shrove Tuesday (some as early as 4:30) to allow workers to purchase paczkis to take to work. So people in the office would pick up a dozen of them (plural is pronounced "poonch-ki"), filled with their favorite jellies and bring them to work. The tables were laden with these delicacies on Paczki Day, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.
Photograph taken from Wikipedia
(This bakery spelled paczki incorrectly)
(This bakery spelled paczki incorrectly)
Fat Tuesday is appropriate for the folks who overindulge in paczkis. The average filled paczki has about seven hundred calories and 50 grams of fat. The most popular filling is prune. Fortunately I never cared much for them so they were easy to resist. But I have seen people eat three of them at a time. I have no idea how that would sit like a heavy burden in one's stomach. I fear no amount of coffee would keep me awake after eating even one paczki.
I must admit, it was such fun to learn the regional differences between the South and the Mid-West. And Milwaukee was such an ethnically diverse city, one could find almost anything from any country. It was a great place to live although I would not like the winters there as much as I did when I was younger.
[Non football fans, you don't need permission, but you might want to leave this post now if you wish:]
You will be pleased to know that despite the results of the Super Bowl yesterday, the sun did indeed rise over North Carolina this morning. I was delighted with the game. The sassy upstart was sacked six times, went 18 for 41, threw an interception, did not make a touchdown, and made two critical fumbles each of which led to a Bronco touchdown. I was hoping he might learn a bit of humility after playing so poorly, but he once again showed his lack of maturity by walking out of the post-game press conference. A reported asked about his disappointment with the outcome. The quarterback, face almost obscured by a hoodie got up and replied, "I'm done" and rudely left the podium.
If you celebrate Mardi Gras, have a wonderful Tuesday. And if you don't celebrate Mardi Gras, have a wonderful Tuesday anyway.