The longstanding tradition of buying paczki in Hamtramck may be over soon, if New Martha Washington, Bozek and others don’t step up the jelly to bread ratio.
Last year I had a good time, well, mostly good time, standing in line on Fat Tuesday waiting to buy a selection of paczki from New Martha Washington Bakery at Joe Campau and Caniff in Hamtramck. I met someone from Germany, talked with another man about his childhood and previous life in California before returning to take care of his ailing mother. At the last minute, my friend Laura walked down from her apt. on Trowbridge and stood in line with me. We watched with horror as one man became belligerent about his place in line, apparently incensed at having to inch rather than walk toward the ordering counter to buy his birthright delicacy.
I paid (probably overpaid) for a dozen or so paczki, and I’m sure I ordered more for having waited in line so long. I patiently waited until I was home, and then shared the treat with my roommate and friends.
Dry. Dry and jellyless is the best way to describe the taste. Why did I wait in the cold 3 hours for this? Waste my money? I can meet strangers in more pleasant circumstances. These days I feel more guilty for not participating in the tradition of Paczki Day than I do eating the damn things.
Yesterday my boyfriend and I went to Bozek Market for some wine after discussing whether we would participate in the longstanding regional tradition. We’d decided we wouldn’t go to one of the nearby bakeries (albeit dwindling array - New Palace Bakery was closed as usual, New Deluxe Bakery closed for good last winter…) and wait around to treat ourselves to getting fat on subpar donuts. Lo, Bozek had paczki. We reconsidered. A young lady working there came over to help us.
“Where do you get your paczki from?” I asked, converting back to my traditional paczki eating self. I was looking for something fresh. In local lore (and common sense), the fresher the better, and bakeries build cult followings based on how “in-house”, homemade, or local their goods are, how many flavors they have, and how authentically Polish the bakery is or seems to be.
“Our factory makes them.” she replied. I raised my eyebrows and my boyfriend and I exchanged a “what the hell?” glance.
“Your factory?” I said.
“Yeah, we have a pierogi factory in south Hamtramck. We convert it to make just paczki for the holiday.”
We did buy some. Apricot, malina, apple, custard and one plum paczek. We bit into them in the car on the way home.
“All I have is bread!” I complained. Always the same let down.
“Me too…” said my boyfriend, biting into a custard, “just bread so far.”
Dry paczki. Again. Why do I bother with this tradition. At least I didn’t feel guilty for not participating.
So, I came to work and some folks came through with paczki. Did I want some? They wanted to know.
I looked inside the box to see plump – even glazed – beautiful Polish donuts.
“Okay, I’ll have one.” I said as I craned my neck to read the silver seal that was placed across the top of the box.
“Dutch Girl!” I exclaimed. I didn’t know that they made them. I bit into it. Jelly! There was jelly from the first bite.
Isn’t this a Polish-American holiday, anyway? It isn’t really Fat Tuesday proper, this is Paczki Day. It’s its own thing. It has a dedicated Wikipedia article, it surprises out-of-towners, merits explanation, has rules and other social layers that give it richness. It has its own hashtag. Well, I’m taking the American side of this hypenated holiday, and I’m standing up for more filling. Dutch Girl Donuts is approximately at 7 Mile and Woodward, far outside of the accepted ring of traditional paczki bakeries, to my understanding. But I don’t care. Next year, I’m going to continue participating in Paczki Day, but it’s not going to be in Hamtramck. They’ve got a cornered market and they practice paczki with shy jelly pours, long lines, and high prices.
Next year, I’m going to Dutch Girl. In Detroit.