Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday… All are names for the day before the first day of Lent. Here in Lancaster County, we celebrate this Tuesday with FASNACHTS, delightful treats that aren’t your run-of-the-mill doughnut.
Fasnacht translates into “fast night” in English which helps to explain the origins of this tradition. It stems from the need to use up the lard, sugar, butter and eggs prior to the beginning of Lent since these lavish items were typically given up. Not to be confused with a standard glazed or powdered sugar doughnut, many fasnachts are made with mashed potatoes and fried in animal fat making them less sweet, but extra delicious! Traditionally, they are square in shape, with no hole, filling, frosting or sprinkles.
Growing up in Lancaster County, I fondly remember the days of coming home from school to see a box of fasnachts on the kitchen counter, never really understanding the rhyme and reason behind them. Now, much like pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, this is a tradition I can’t pass up. I stopped by Lancaster Central Market on my way in to work for my fasnacht from one of the bakery stands who were displaying rows and rows of fried perfection. It was just as delicious as I remember – slightly crispy on the outside with a fluffy center. I prefer ones rolled in powdered sugar, but am sure other variations are just as tasty.
Happy Fasnacht Day!