Tuesday, February 16, 2010


We were suffering from cabin fever and anxious to celebrate Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras with a traditional Pennsylvania German fastnacht, sometimes spelled fasnacht or faschnacht, a doughnut treat served traditionally on Fastnacht Day, the day before Lent starts. Fastnachts are made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat, and butter, which are traditionally not eaten during Lent.

We prevailed upon the Box to wake from his deep and chilly sleep to haul us south to Lancaster County, namely Roots' Market near Manheim. The roads were clear and dry, and it was smooth sailing all the way.

Once off the Interstate, we enjoyed a few miles' drive through the countryside, where untouched snow covered field after field of the prosperous-looking Pennsylvania German farmsteads. Several handsome old stone farmhouses stood against the snowy breezes as they have for a hundred or more years.

The Roots' parking lot was pretty full when we arrived, although the place looked quiet without all the outside vendors selling just about anything you can think of. Upon entering the market building, we bought the first fastnachts in sight -- just to be sure we got some! Then we walked throughout the market, making purchases from a number of stands. I made it my mission to photograph every fastnacht in the market and was amazed at the great variety of this traditional treat -- glazed, powdered sugar, granular sugar, and plain.

Once our shopping was completed, we decided to do a little "shunpiking" and took the long (and slow) way home though Mount Joy and Elizabethtown.

At Mount Joy, we stopped at the Wilton Armetale Factory Store. Armetale is a pewter-like metal cast into all sorts of cookware and tableware. Before we were married, we went to Doehne's Ox-Bow Shop on Progress Avenue every pay day to purchase an Armetale dinner, salad, and bread plate. We got additional pieces as wedding gifts and others at the factory store when it was in Columbia, Pa. We still have it and use it on special occasions. We were sorry to see that our pattern has been discontinued, and it was hard to resist the clearance prices for it, but we managed.

By mid-afternoon we arrived at home and "celebrated" by consuming our authentic Fastnacht Day treats -- piled high on another authentic Pennsylvania German treasure, an original 1970s Lester Breininger redware plate! Ah, life is good.

And now, the stars of the show -- each and every kind of fastnacht being sold today at Roots Market! Drooling is permitted.

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