Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Fasnacht Tuesday!

“What?” I hear you ask, which is exactly what Bob asked when he was leaving the office one day last week, and his secretary asked him, “Are we going to get fasnachts for Fasnacht Tuesday?” Or, I think, maybe he said, “What’s that?” After she laughed, and said, “I had a feeling you wouldn’t know,” she went on to explain that in preparation for Lent, we had to eat up all our fat, so everyone makes fasnachts. The church usually provides fasnachts and coffee from 7:00 – 11:00 a.m. for anyone from the congregation who wants to stop by.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that called “Fat Tuesday?” Or “Mardi Gras?” Or maybe even “Pancake Tuesday?” Well, no. Welcome to Pennsylvania Dutch Territory where you might as well be living in a foreign country as far as being the least bit familiar with customs is concerned. A fasnacht (for those of you who don’t live here or in Germany or Switzerland, from whence they, quite obviously come. With a name like that, I’m sure you weren’t guessing “Italian custom”) is a special kind of potato dough used to make doughnuts. Apparently, they’re really supposed to be baked plain, but I guess a lot of people found that boring, so now you can get plain ones, but you can also get them glazed or coated with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.

Now this is interesting. I grew up with the English tradition of making pancakes to eat up all the fat on Shrove Tuesday. I absolutely loved this special occasion when we got to eat pancakes for dinner (that is, when my mother remembered, which wasn’t always easy living, as we were, surrounded by some-very-scary little Independent Southern Baptist congregations, whom I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to discover declare Lent to be a pagan season. We remembered when I was in high school, though, because my Catholic high school always held a fund-raising pancake dinner.) Now I’m living in a place in which doughnuts are the required food of the day.

Don’t you just love our very clever ancestors who devised all these customs? Let’s see, we’re about to go into a season of fasting, so let’s have this fantastic day in which it’s absolutely okay to gorge yourself on fat till your little heart’s content, and nobody will look at you askance (although, for some of us, that might mean our little heart stops beating before Lent has run its course). Well, who am I to argue with tradition? After all, I’ve got all that English blood racing through my veins, but I’ve also got some German blood trying to stake out its claim in those tiny little tubes. Doughnuts for breakfast and pancakes for dinner? How can the day HELP but be anything other than happy? I’ll let you know when I lose the ten pounds I surely must have gained today.


Litlove said...

Very entertaining, Emily! We had pancakes last night - I agree it's a great tradition!

Anonymous said...

We had pancakes last night, and have started spreading the tradition among our American friends.

Christine said...

As one of musingsfromthesofa's American friends to whom the tradition is spreading, I must say that it is a wonderful thing. But doughnuts as well . . . I can't wait until next year!

Dorothy W. said...

Pancakes for dinner -- that's a tradition I'd be happy to participate in :)

Eva said...

Sounds like a good day!

In Russia, before the whole Soviet thing, they had Maslenitsa, which is the whole *week* before Lent (though their Lent is usually different the from Western Christian one) during which it was traditional to eat a ton of blini, which are kind of like Russian crepes (only yummier!). :)

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, yes, a great tradition!

MFS, I seem to recall your spreading of tradition (and making sure you had good syrup for the occasion).

Chris, now if someone would only say, "and you have to eat up all your chocolate," it would be a 3-course meal, wouldn't it?

Dorr, come join us next year!

Eva, blinis: yum!