Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday - it's the day before Lent starts in the Christian calendar, and an excuse for parties everywhere. Traditionally, all the foods that are banned during Lent (aka everything delicious) would be used up in the days before so no one would be tempted to eat them. These yummy things are the result!
1. King Cake
King Cake - so called because it is generally consumed on the day the three kings visited the baby Jesus - is a New Orleans tradition. A little plastic baby is hidden inside, and whoever gets the slice with the baby has to buy the next cake. Don't get (or eat) the baby!
Packzi are Polish filled donuts. Many parts of the United States have bakeries that make paczki - in Hamtramck, Michigan, there is even a Paczki Day Parade! Yum!
This is another kind of donut. (Donuts are a popular way to get rid of the forbidden foods.) German fasnacht are yeast donuts, but the Pennsylvania Dutch version is sometimes a potato donut! In parts of Maryland, they are also called "Kinklings" which is the cutest name ever.
Gogosi are sweet donut balls that hail from Romania. They are filled with things like chocolate, apricot jam, strawberry jam or cream cheese. And my mouth wants to be filled with THEM.
Semla are a Finnish cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off, and is then filled with an almond cream and whipped cream. YES PLEASE. These treats predate Christian influence in Finland but are now generally part of the pre-Lent celebration.
Bolludagur are cream puffs enjoyed by Icelanders on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. Some estimates show that about 1 million of the delicious pastries are sold during the celebration - which means each Icelander gets about 4!
Malasada are YET ANOTHER DELICIOUS DONUT, eaten in Portugal and Hawaii. They were first made by residents of the Madeira Islands, who call Fat Tuesday "TerÃ§a-feira Gorda." Isn't Portuguese fun?
Nalysnyky are a Ukrainian crepe enjoyed during Masnytsya, a celebration of the coming spring, which, like many pre-Chrisian festivals, has been folded into Christian celebrations. Generally, they are stuffed with cottage cheese during this joyous spring time.
In Russia, the spring festival is called Maslenitsa, and blini are the pancakes they ate to represent the sun (we think). The Russian Orthodox church folded the celebration into their pre-Lent calendar, and now blini are a way to use up those "forbidden foods" before The Great Fast of Lent.
In the UK and other Commonwealth countries, Shrove Tuesday is called Pancake Day. Generally these pancakes are served with lemon and sugar and are more like a crepe than what you might think of as a pancake.