VENICE — Southwest Florida will take part in a Fat Tuesday tradition again this week that has nothing to do with throwing beads.
Thousands of Polish pastries known as paczki are being baked in anticipation of what’s become known as Paczki Day on Tuesday.
Yummies Donuts & BBQ has seen the uptick in business for more than a decade now. It began Thursday with what’s become known as Fat Thursday — the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
But, come Tuesday morning, that will amp up even more.
“It’s very crazy busy,” Yummies owner Allen Tines said. “Like every year. We’ll probably make over 10,000 paczki.”
The pastries have become so popular this week that they’ll be sold in big box and other grocery stores as well.
Paczki were traditionally made the day before Lent began among Polish Catholics to make sure to use lard, sugars and fruits before 40 days of fasting began.
It’s a tradition Bob Dombrowski knows well — so well, he wrote a book about it.
“Paczki Day: Stories About Growing Up Polish In Detroit,” is his novel about life set against the holiday.
Dombrowski, who winters in Osprey and spends six months a year in Grosse Ile, Michigan, just outside Detroit, said through the decades, Paczki Day has gained more popularity.
“Just like how everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day; everybody up north is Polish on Paczki Day,” he said.
He looks back on his childhood when his family made the treat on their own.
“When I was a little kid, my mom — we would always have prune paczki,” he said, noting that he’ll usually have one of those a year.
He said — as they were about to go into 40 days of fasting — they had to have their jelly doughnuts.
Tines said it’s a good day to connect — or reconnect — with some customers.
“I enjoy doing it because it’s meeting a lot of northerners from Michigan and Ohio who come down every year and this is their first stop,” Tines said.
He is also originally from Detroit and is in the fourth generation of baking paczki.
“They know my family tradition,” Tines said, noting his business has been open for 31 years. “I know of customers who have been coming and getting paczki from us for 10-15 years.”
Dombrowski said his favorite part is sharing paczki with different people.
“Plus, I just love eating the doughnuts,” he said.
He said some Midwest cities have huge celebrations for Paczki Day, citing Hamtramck, Michigan as “ground zero.”
“They have the bakeries there and they’ll have a parade and beer tents set up and bands there set up,” Dombrowski said.
His family will be taking part in the day.
“We’ll be celebrating it with our polka music and paczki,” Dombrowski said.
But more and more, Southwest Florida from Tampa to Naples has taken to celebrating the day.
“The culture came right down I-75 to western Florida,” he said.