On Doughnuts & Fasting

Mardi Gras! Shrove Tuesday! Fat Tuesday!

I mean, really, how can today not be one of your favorite days of the entire year? I don’t really know what “shrove” means*, but I know what “fat” means, and I can’t say I mind having a day set aside to partake of it, especially just before the great fast.

As a child I had very little understanding of the connection between Mardi Gras and Lent–I associated New Orleans Mardi Gras with a Spring Break orgy rather than a celebration of liturgy, both of which my sheltered evangelical America childhood knew nothing of.

But I did know that on Fastnacht Day,which is what we called it, we ate fastnachts. Or, rather, we ate doughnuts and called them fastnachts, which we told ourselves was the German word for doughnut. (Turns out that it’s not, by the way. It might mean “carnival” but it also might just mean “night of the fast,” which is pretty boring, if you ask me.)

I actually thought this doughnut-consumption was a normal practice among all Americans everywhere. Little old ladies at the Methodist church took fastnacht orders for weeks in advance and stayed up all night making them in the church basement–sugared or cinnamon-sugared or plain, by the dozen. And it was such a standard outside the church as well. On Fastnacht Day, fire stations sold them as fundraisers, and every radio DJ worth a grain of salt was broadcasting live from somewhere around central Pennsylvania that was distributing fastnachts.

It wasn’t until I moved to Texas and someone said they were having pancakes for dinner–and I thought to myself, That’s silly! Why would you eat pancakes on Fastnacht Day?–that I realized my affinity for doughnuts was not a universal.

I have since learned about the wonders and beauty of King Cake, too, and all I can say is: YUM. I love this holiday.

Because I’ve lived my entire adult life away from Pennsylvania Dutch country, I never get an authentic fastnacht on Fat Tuesday, but the truth is, I never really liked them anyway. (They were always kind of greasy, and certainly never compared to a jelly-filled Dunkin’ Donut, a favorite of my childhood.) The hubster and I do, however, try to eat something extra spectacular on this day of all days. I often make cinnamon rolls, or we eat scones smothered in Nutella, or he’ll buy doughnuts for his students, many of whom are Baptist and don’t understand the point, even after he explains it. That is not to bash Baptists, by the way, considering I am one now, but it is more a statement of fact as we’ve experienced it.

This morning, we stopped and bought ourselves some frou-frou drinks at our local coffee shop. Yum.

And, bacheloretting it, I had macaroni and cheese for dinner. YUM.

So I’m counting that as a celebration.

Besides, there might be room for Nutella in the next four hours…


* I have spent only about fifteen seconds trying to determine what “shrove” means and the unreputable sources on the interwebs link it to being “shriven” or forgiven, which makes sense, but I didn’t want to claim it without further research.

12 comments on “On Doughnuts & Fasting

  1. Ashley says:

    I didn’t know you were by yourself. We indeed had pancakes for dinner. No King Cake this year 😦

    • elizabeth says:

      I should have walked across the yard and invited myself over. 🙂

      I actually had my monthly writing group this evening, and J taught from 5-7, so our schedules just didn’t line up.

      And I am always happy for an excuse to eat macaroni and cheese these days!

  2. Elaine says:

    To shrive, or ask for forgiveness or blessing. See The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at the end where the mariner asks for shriving from the monk. That’s the only reason I know that word!

    I also bought donuts for my students this morning, and they loved the treat but didn’t really understand either!

    I am also baching tonight since my hubby is in Lancaster!

    • elizabeth says:

      You, my dear, will be nominated for the position of resident-expert-on-all-things-literary! Thanks!

      Hope you ate something fun for dinner… Mar might have some whoopie pies in the freezer. We could start a new tradition: Whoopie Tuesday! (Okay, I don’t think that will catch on…)

  3. Liz's Dad says:

    What a delightful article! I never liked Fastnachts either but just about any other donut will do!!

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Dad. I know that I got my donut adoration honestly, but I didn’t want to call you out on it in the blog post 🙂

      By the way, I don’t eat the nasty jelly-filled ones any more either. Now I always get the blueberry cake ones (or an apple fritter). And I’ve been told by my students that only old ladies like the blueberry cake donuts, so…

  4. Olivia says:

    I also longed for a doughnut today, but no one has understood why for the past ten years about that down here in the South…I do like King Cake, AND got a the lil baby one year! Sadly, I did not have one this year…but I did go get frozen yogurt tonight after dinner. 😉

    • elizabeth says:

      Frozen yogurt counts!

      By the way, at our Sunday school class’s mardi gras party one year (we’re obviously not your normal sort of Baptist church), the person who brought the King Cake couldn’t find a baby to put in it, so she used one of her son’s plastic donkeys. So how could we resist calling it an a** cake?

      I know, so completely in appropriate in any venue, but especially a Sunday school party!

  5. stephen says:

    Well, out here in the Pacific Northwest, people barely know what Ash Wednesday is, let alone the Tuesday before.

    So I settled to eat a Peach Cobler that Kelsie made instead of doughnuts, fastnachts, king cakes, etc.

    Did anyone else notice that they just started airing the McDonalds Fish Sandwich commercials?

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