Today is Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Christian season of Lent. In the US, we also call it mardi gras (which is French for Fat Tuesday), but in my area we call it “Paczke Day”, after a type of Polish jelly doughnut that everyone here (whether Polish or not) eats on that day.
After I finished teaching my morning class at a community college in suburban Detroit today, I walked into the student center and heard mardi gras songs in creole French being played over the loudspeaker. As soon as I walked in, a Chinese girl offered me a cup of jambalaya, which is a spicy Louisiana dish made from rice, shrimp, chicken, vegetables, and sometimes pieces of sausage. The name jambalaya originally comes from the Provence region of France. However, the Chinese girl serving it thought it was gumbo, which is a similar dish, but more like a soup. The word gumbo comes from an Angolan word for the vegetable okra. When I went into the student cafeteria, they were, of course, offering those Polish jelly doughnuts, paczke, as well. They may have come from a local Polish bakery, or they could have been from one of the German or Belgian bakeries, which on my side of town are almost all owned by Macedonians now. Once I tried to buy bread on Fat Tuesday, but I couldn’t, because the bakery was completely filled with paczke.
Some people would say that this kind of crazy cultural mix could only happen in the US, but I know it can also happen in Canada, and I’d be willing to bet you can find it in London and Frankfurt, as well.
What do you think?