Home

Fat Tuesday, Polish-Style

Rep. Debbie Dingell is carrying on the tradition started by her husband, former Rep. John Dingell (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Look out for Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., carrying pastries through the Capitol on Tuesday. Paczki Day is a Mardi Gras tradition, also known as Fat Tuesday, for Polish Lent celebrators.  

A paczki is a fried dough ball filled with anything from the traditional filling, rose-hip, cherry and prune, to more modern ingredients like custard, chocolate, jam or jelly.  

The paczki started because Catholics would cook with sugar, eggs and fruit, which they could not eat during Lent, to empty them out of their kitchens on the day before Ash Wednesday. Now, bakeries in Polish communities, notably in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, prepare paczki for people to buy on the morning of Fat Tuesday.  

Former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., is of Polish descent and the Dingell family has traditionally celebrated the holiday. Debbie Dingell is literally bringing Paczki Day to the Hill, delivering the treat, fresh from Michigan, to some of her colleagues. Previously, John Dingell was the paczki packer.  

“As a proud Dingell, this is a tradition I want to keep with my friends on a day that everyone is an honorary member of the Polish community,” the congresswoman told HOH. “Paczki Day is a good time to remind us to take time to understand one another’s diverse views and perspectives and focus on what unites us instead of what divides us.”  

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., co-chairman of the Poland Caucus, stopped at the Party Cake Shop in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., to pick up paczki before heading back to Washington. According to his office, Paczki Day is a tradition from his mother, Florence Rybicki Murphy,  whose family were Polish immigrants. “Paczki is smaczny!” is a well-used term from Murphy on Fat Tuesday.

To make paczki at home, heat milk, mix it with sugar and flour and cover the dough. Then melt butter and egg yolks, slowly add that to the dough and refrigerate it. Once the dough rises, make cookie-sized dough balls and fry them in hot oil in a saucepan until brown. Slit them with a knife on the side and drop in filling, such as jam or jelly. Then roll them in powdered sugar for the finishing touch.

Related: See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.