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Published: Tuesday, 2/24/2009

Paczki push scaled back


Here s the skinny on a Fat Tuesday favorite:

In the cooled-down economy, orders for the traditional hot seller have been slimmed down.

About 1,300 dozen paczki will be sold by late this afternoon in the historic Polish Village s Shoppes on Lagrinka, but that order number is 200 dozen fewer than last year.

The order was reduced because of concerns over the economy, said Beth Lewandowski, vice president of the Lagrange Village Council, which annually sponsors Paczki Day, or rather paczki days.

The council s three-day sale began Sunday and ends Tuesday.

And, too, the order was scaled back because of timing: When the annual Paczkowy Fest falls near month s end, people don t buy as many paczki, she said.

Annie Walker helps with the Polish Village paczki sale, which ends Tuesday. 
Annie Walker helps with the Polish Village paczki sale, which ends Tuesday.

Paying bills apparently takes priority over purchasing prune-filled pastries.

Prune is a traditional filling, but a new, nontraditional flavor is popular in the Polish Village, where Sorry, we re sold out of apple was heard two days in a row.

Customers might particularly like apple paczki because the middle tastes like apple-pie filling, said Janet Smolenski, past president of the Lagrange Village Council and current president of the Lagrange Development Corp.

She and other volunteers scrambled to fill orders yesterday afternoon for a steady stream of customers who selected from among raspberry, custard, lemon, prune, apricot, raisin, blueberry, and granulated sugar varieties.

Even from outside the store, the sugary, deep-fried pastry smell beckons: Think grandma s kitchen, or a county fair midway.

Years ago, Polish women would sweep through their cupboards, cleaning out sugar, fruit, flour, and lard in anticipation of Lent, Mrs. Lewandowski explained.

With those ingredients, plus a dash of spice, some eggs, and other kitchen staples, they made some very tasty pastries, she said, and that tradition puffs up each Paczki Day. When it comes to pronouncing the pastry, think poonch-key.

Fat Tuesday is a feast day, a day of excess, the last chance to pudge out before the Lenten fast begins. Many people give up sweets or other much-loved, and often high-calorie, foods during Lent.

By Lagrange Village Council proclamation, Mrs. Lewandowski said, there are zero calories in paczki sold here.

Liar, liar, pants on fire, said Dee Dee Mazuchowski, a Polish Village resident, with a laugh. A paczki sale volunteer for five years, she knows the calorie count is high, but shrugs it off, saying it s a once-a-year thing.

A delicious dozen, some lemon and some custard, went home with her yesterday. And maybe another half dozen today.

Her husband, Robert, shares some with co-workers, but the couple will polish off several of the Polish pastries before Lent begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.

If any remain, I sneak some after Lent, she said. The pastries keep well in the freezer.

Customers come from near and far. A couple of Virginia residents stopped by, and a Kentucky man, who timed his visit to Toledo to coincide with Paczki Day, bought some, too.

Pete Kasper drove in from Michigan. His wife, Beverly, wanted some custard paczki, and he wanted blueberry. The Temperance resident said he s been a Paczkowy Fest customer his whole life.

Helen Specht, a resident in the Lagrange community for about 50 years, and daughter Regina Smelser of Toledo selected their favorites.

Mrs. Specht said she s particularly fond of the Fat Tuesday pastries because she gives up sweets for Lent and because she knows that after today, there won t be paczki sightings here again until 2010.

They were in a hurry. Mrs. Specht s husband, Al, was at home, hungrily awaiting the arrival of the annual sweet treat.

He s waiting, she said, and not patiently either.

She was teasing.

Prices are the same as last year: $6 per half dozen and $10 for Polish coffee cakes. Customers can stop by 2848 Lagrange St. beginning at 5 a.m. today.

Paczki Day proceeds are used to support the programs and projects of the Lagrange Village Council.

Other places will be packing them in today, too, for Paczki Day, including Michael s Cafe & Bakery at Front and Main streets in Toledo where there will be paczki caroling and live entertainment.

Contact Janet Romaker at:jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.

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