The whole point of Mardi Gras—also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or more generally as Carnival—is to eat all of the food before Lent, a period when Christians around the world fast for 40 days that starts on Wednesday. The idea is that you fill yourself up with food on Fat Tuesday, hence the name, so you can make it through the period of no food (or, as is more common these days, a restricted intake of food). It makes sense, then, that foods eaten on Fat Tuesday are sugary and carby AF. And really, there's nothing quite like binging on a selection of doughnuts, pancakes, and other fried, sugary doughs to ring in the Shrove Tuesday celebrations.
So take a look at some of the countries where you can celebrate Mardi Gras with some sweet, sweet fried dough—and you'll quickly see why you could also start calling Fat Tuesday the carbiest day of the year.
Mardi Gras is called Pancake Tuesday in Ireland, and, according to the Irish Sun, in 2017, Irish folks are expected to eat over 12 million pancakes on Tuesday. A favorite topping? Lemon and sugar, though maple syrup and chocolate aren't far behind.
More Pancakes—United Kingdom
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day throughout the United Kingdom, and it's celebrated by eating pancakes, sure. But there are also some hardcore pancake races hosted across the country, even one at Parliament with teams of members of parliament. Folks run a course while constantly flipping pancakes; if you drop the pancake, you're disqualified. Rumor has it that these pancakes races have been held since the 15th century, "when a particularly disorganized woman in Buckinghamshire rushed to church to confess her sins while mid-way through making pancakes," according to The Telegraph.
Even More Pancakes—Australia
As a former British colony, Australia also celebrates Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes. The charity UnitingCare also helps to organize Pancake Day fundraisers, featuring pancake races.
Malasadas are bite-size Portuguese yeast doughnuts, but these days, they're commonly enjoyed in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii—and thousands of people are expected to visit Leonard's Bakery in Honolulu to get their fix of fried dough, made rich with butter, milk, and half-and-half, on Fat Tuesday.
Semla is Sweden's go-to Fat Tuesday treat that's best described as a cream-filled sweet bun. The pastry itself is flavored with cardamom, and it's cut open and filled with almond paste. Traditionally, it's served in a bowl with warm milk, but you can also eat it as is, with your bare hands.
The most popular place to celebrate Carnival in Italy is Venice, complete with elaborate masks. But one of the more popular snacks to eat during the celebration is also one of the simplest: frittelle, or fried dough. They're ball of sweet dough that are deep-fried and coated in powdered sugar.
Paczki are basically Polish doughnuts, filled with some kind of fruity jelly like rosehip or apple or lemon or strawberry and coated in—what else?—sugar. They're common in the upper Midwest, though as Serena Maria Daniels notes in a piece for Extra Crispy, "don’t call it a doughnut around loyalists."
Beignets and King Cake—United States
Few places in the United States takes Mardi Gras more seriously than New Orleans, so it should come as little shock that the best Fat Tuesday treats come from the so-called Big Easy. There are beignets, lighter and crispier than a round, glazed doughnut, and King Cake, slathered in cream cheese frosting and filled with cinnamon.
So eat all of the carbs this Fat Tuesday. Everyone else around the world is doing it, too.