Packing in the paczki.

Rich and sweet.

While that might perhaps be a description of the ideal spouse, it is definitely a description of paczki, the jelly or cream-filled doughnuts associated with Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

A few days early, on Saturday, Bennison’s Bakery in downtown Evanston held its 12th annual Paczki Eating Contest. Down as many as you can in five minutes.

Ten two-person teams entered, and Blaine Downer, of Bennison’s, said “people kept calling,” trying to get into the competition.

Each team was given a tray full of 35 paczki.

But the lineup was already full … which is the same feeling contestants had after the five minutes of paczki packing.

The team of Frank Wach and Teddy Delacruz ended up the winners, consuming 27 paczki between them. They were not exactly sure who ate how many, but both are experienced entrants in eating contests in the Chicagoland area.

Gyros, hot dogs, pancakes. You name it.

Teddy Delacruz, member of the winning two-person team, shows how it’s done.

“Usually,” Delacruz said, after gobbling down ponderous portions of paczki, “we compete against each other.” But this time, they teamed up.

Paczki date to the Middle Ages in Poland, to use up eggs, sugar and other items that were prohibited to eat during the Lenten fast.

Paczki are particularly popular in Chicagoland, with its large Polish population.

Bennison’s owner Jory Downer said each of the ten teams paid a $25 entry fee, with the money going to charity.

While this was Bennison’s 12 annual Paczki Eating Contest, there was a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

The winning team, Wach and Delacruz, received $200 to split. They were also given $75 gift cards apiece for Bennisons, just in case they needed a paczki chaser to wash down the paczki they had already consumed.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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