Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Give me your finest donut bombs!

A what? Poonch-what? No, never heard of it. What is that? What are you talking about? No, we have donuts, but we don't have those. Where are you from?

That's an re-enactment of my last two Fat Tuesdays in Iowa. If I'd asked for a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, everything would've been fine. They have lots of those in Iowa. But since I asked for a paczki (poonch-key), I apparently sounded like some weirdo from another country. Is it just a Michigan thing? It can't be. But friends and relatives in other places (Maryland, South Carolina, California, Texas) tell me they've had the same experience. And some, if not most of you reading this have no idea what I'm writing about.

For the first time in two years, I'm back in Michigan for Fat Tuesday, also known around here as "Paczki Day," which means people don't give me funny looks when I ask for one of these jelly-filled fat bombs. Every local TV station sends someone out to a Hamtramck bakery to film a Polish baker pull rack after rack of 400-calorie, 25 grams of fat-laden bundles of fun (How's that for a Donutbuzz, Hoyt?) out of the fryer and interview people stuffing their faces full of lard, sugar, jelly and dough. (Among the customers interviewed for today's Detroit News? A cardiac technician. HA!)

This feels right. All is normal in my world. And that feeling will probably last until about, oh, 2 or 3 p.m., when my body will express its displeasure with me for putting such a heavy mass in my stomach.

Actually, it's taken me almost four years to get to the point where I could even look at a paczki without crying. In what will be recorded in my memoirs as a colossally misguided life decision, I once managed a bakery. I took the job because I was totally burned out, felt I needed a change of pace, and thought I was helping out a friend. At the risk of being completely melodramatic, that one year crushed my soul. And no night drained my spirit more than the one in which I packed paczki orders for the bakery's three locations almost entirely by myself until almost midnight.

(Everyone else was curiously "busy" that night. I should've quit immediately thereafter. But I needed the money. Some people pose for nude photos. I packed paczki. I should've gotten naked. I'd have been a lot happier.)

But I know I'm past that now. I've moved on (though clearly haven't forgotten). So this morning, I sat down with a raspberry-filled rock of pastry (no prune!) - my first in almost four years - and a coffee and enjoyed life. No, it's not a jelly donut. It's, like, breadier. And there's no way in hell I'd eat one any other time of the year. But I'm happy to have one today.