Depending on where you spent Tuesday, February 21, 2012 it was either Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fasnacht Day or Kinkling Day. If you celebrated any of these days heartily you are most likely spending Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in a carb and grease coma! This day has been celebrated since the middle ages as a time to confess our sins and to clear the pantry of lard, sugar, butter and fat before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Lent can then begin with a clear conscience and an attitude of sacrifice.
Basel, Switzerland has an annual Fasnacht Festival. The 19th century immigrants settling in the Mid-Atlantic States in America became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch in the area of Lancaster County, PA. They brought to America their recipes for fasnachts, donuts made with potato based dough and cut into square or rectangular shapes. They are either uncoated or coated with table sugar or powdered sugar. Fasnachts are synonymous with Carnival in Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria.
A long-time friend and former co-worker grew up in this area of Pennsylvania. Karen used to spoil our team and bring us fasnachts on Fat Tuesday each year. They were wonderful and have left an imprint that will cause me to celebrate her salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs automatically on Fat Tuesday. Each year going forward I celebrate (and will continue to celebrate) Karen’s culinary skills and friendship. Thank you Karen for all of those gastronomically delightful Tuesday mornings!!
In the state of Maryland, especially in the area of Frederick, you would find Kinklings on Fat Tuesday. They are, in essence, identical to fasnachts. Fasnachts have some other relatives.
On Fat Tuesday in America we always think of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras brings forth images of the King Cake. King Cake originated in the middle ages as an oval shaped braided cake decorated with cinnamon sugar in the official Mardi Gras colors of gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice). In medieval times there would be a coin hidden in the cake. Today, it is a small plastic baby, the person who gets the slice of cake with the baby must host the next party and may be crowned King or Queen of the Mardi Gras party. King Cake, although associated with Shrove Tuesday, traditionally was eaten between the Twelfth Night (after Christmas) until Fat Tuesday.
The French celebration involved a large meal including crepes and waffles.
In Southern Sweden there are Shrove Tuesday buns called semlor. These buns are filled with an almond paste and whipped cream.
Finland they dined on pea soup with a blini (a rich pancake) served with caviar and Smetana (sour cream).