Fat Tuesday

February 17, 1999

Today is Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Carnaval, or, if you’re steeped in the Pennslyvania German culture of this area, Fastnacht Day. Fastnacht is a German word meaning “night before the fast,” and the event of Fastnacht Day is described in today’s local paper as “a day Christians traditionally turn their milk, butter, and fats into a treat before Lent.”

Here, the word fastnacht  has come to mean a raised yeast doughnut, deep-fried and then either glazed or rolled in granulated sugar, or coated with icing and all manner of jiggers and sprinkles.  (The oxymoronic and purpose-defeating phenomenon of the “fat-free fastnacht” is beyond my comprehension and will not be discussed here.)

In addition to the always-available Dunkin’ Donuts fare or the strictly kosher versions available at my neighborhood supermarket’s in-store bakery, there are the fastnachts prepared by any number of church groups and ladies’ auxiliaries. The people of Salem Lutheran Church, profiled in the story, begin on Monday afternoon and turn out 400 dozen fastnachts, many of which have been pre-sold, like Girl Scout cookies, and are picked up by their hungry purchasers as early as 3 a.m.

I mention this because I am on the verge (haven’t quite taken the plunge yet) of putting up two new sections of this site. One is Refiguring, an exploration of the issues surrounding food, weight loss, and body image. (There are a ton of “weight loss journals” out there on the web, true “I had a pork chop for dinner” diaries.*  Mine, I hope, will be more subtle, and more comprehensive.)

The other is Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts), a set of essays and observations of a spiritual nature. The key word up there in the first paragraph is “Christian.” That is what I am, and it is one of the ropes, perhaps the most important one, attached to the “supporting central cedar pole” of The Silken Tent, although you wouldn’t know it really from the contents of this site so far.

So yesterday (and, I’ll admit, the day before and much of the weekend, since my daughter’s Music Booster fastnachts were delivered on Friday) I indulged in these wonderful sugary treats. Now it’s time to refocus, recommit, and go refigure.

*(I am indebted to Mona Simpson’s short story “Lawns” for the pork chop image.)

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