Hamtramck packs in the paczki for Fat Tuesday
Hamtramck — Let the gorging until oblivion begin.
Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, or what Metro Detroiters call “Paczki Day,” when a Polish tradition is observed and devoured here in the city. The deep fried pieces of dough, usually filled with cream or fruit, are enjoyed the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season.
Before the lunchtime rush on Monday, costumers lined up inside of New Martha Washington bakery waiting to get a taste of a paczek, the delectable delight that draws thousands to the bakery.
“I have been coming here my entire life, so about 50 years,” said Frank Castronova, who lives in St. Clair Shores. “I have tried paczki from almost everywhere, but nothing compares to a traditional one from Hamtramck. It’s worth the drive.”
Opening in 1973, Sunca Bakic, aka Sandy, has helped her parents run New Martha Bakery since she was in her early teens.
As she glanced around the shop every few seconds, making sure every glass case was filled with paczki and everything else was in place, Bakic said the employees here will pull an all-nighter.
“We start prepping months in advance. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into it,” Bakic said. “When we were younger, we tried to count how many paczki we sell, but when people ask for one of this and two of that, we just lost count.”
Debbie O’Connor of Roseville was brought along to the bakery by her best friend since middle school, Debora Tempalski of Warren.
“I had to bring Debbie because she has never tasted an authentic paczki,” Tempalski said. “I have been coming here for over 25 years, so I know the difference. She will know right away, too, once she tastes one.”
As buttercream, strawberry, blueberry and rose (customers say it tastes just like it smells) paczki fill up the boxes upon boxes that are stacked on top of the counter, Bakic said there are no favorite flavors.
“There are so many different flavors, you can’t possibly pick one, but my favorite is apricot,” Bakic said. “It’s all about the tradition, but on Paczki Day, everyone is Polish.”