Nothing says “feast” like “impending fast.” Every February and March, in preparation for a month-plus of abstention and prayer for Lent, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians from Brazil to Poland get their fleshly desires out of their systems in carnivals showcasing dancing, dress-up, and delicious food.
The names of these celebrations say it all: Butter Week in Russia; Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday” in New Orleans; Malasada Tuesday, named for eggy, stuffed malasada donuts, in Hawai’i. Though many churchgoers heartily approve of Butelo e Casulas, a rich smoked sausage served with green beans before Lent in Northeastern Portugal, and graffe, a sugar-coated ring donut fried for Carnival in Naples, Italy, your cardiologist most certainly would not.
While carnivals offer a psychological reprieve for revelers, they historically offered a practical purpose for many cooks who cleaned their pantries of soon-to-be rejected dairies, meats, and sugars, converting them into donuts, pancakes, cookies, and cakes, along with savory dishes.
Many of these treats, like Pennsylvania’s fasnacht potato donuts, have evolved from pre-Lenten favorites to year-round indulgences. Whether you’re searching for a way to prepare for a month of self-denial or just jonesing for a snack of godly proportions, we invite you to feast on these carnival festivals and delicacies.