Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Many Christian communities the world over spend the Tuesday before Lent eating and/or drinking themselves silly. Foods associated with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras are generally heavy on sugar, eggs, milk, and fats--luxurious ingredients that shouldn't be eaten during Lent itself, but wouldn't keep for forty days. Cake and pancakes are typical fare, but in Pennsylvania-Dutch country, the Tuesday before Lent is Fasnacht Day, dedicated to the consumption of outrageously fatty holeless doughnuts of yeasted flour and potato dough.
It seems like a good omen that I should find myself in Kutztown, PA, on a day dedicated to pastry. Promisingly, the neighborhood convenience store sells fasnachts supplied by (in the clerk's words) "an old lady", but they are also fried in lard--a substance I have trouble eating unless I have no idea I'm doing so. They also sell out before 9am on Fasnacht Day, thus saving sleepy-headed me the trouble of making a difficult decision.
The local supermarket had a huge fasnacht display, including 6-packs and 12-packs, jelly-filled, glazed, and powdered. The box of "Old Fashion Fastnachts" was emblazoned with a day-glo orange sticker reading, "Get to know what good is", which firmly clinched my decision.
The fasnachts were golden-brown, dimpled, and as greasy as a bike chain; sugar was far down on the list of ingredients, just behind potatoes and well behind vegetable shortening. My friend Janna, a PA native, taught me to toast them carefully (the grease catches fire easily) and slather them with jam (in a cursory nod to nutrition I added a schmear of plain yogurt). The hot, crisp fasnachts were sinfully delicious, and substantial enough to cling to one's ribs for a full 40 days and nights.