The Day Before Lent, A Sweet Tradition at Reading Terminal Market

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of the older customs of Fat Tuesday makes for a good excuse to eat some donuts!

In the Pennsylvania Dutch section of the Reading Terminal Market, Beiler’s Bakery has been a fixture in the market for decades.

Nineteen-year-old Keith Beiler (top photo) says his family doesn’t tinker with the recipe for making fasnachts — a holeless donut whose name means “the night before the fast.”

“Fat Tuesday, the fasnacht donut, is a potato donut fried up, just plain or powdered with cinnamon and sugar,” he  explains.

(Credit: Steve Tawa)

(Credit: Steve Tawa)

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What is it about this donut that makes them special?

“It’s a family recipe,” Keith Beiler tells KYW Newsradio.   “My grandfather had it, and now it’s been passed down to me.”

He said it’s tradition to roll out the fasnachts once a year before Lent, to rid pantries of sweet treat materials like lard, sugar, and butter.

As he slapped a ten-pound slab of dough on the work table that will produce 80 to 90 donuts, one customer stopped in her tracks nearby and said, “Yummy!”

“I am a traditional Pennsylvanian,” Heather, from Mechanicsburg, told KYW Newsradio.   “I remember growing up, my parents going to the fire station early in the morning (on Shrove Tuesday) to get their fresh fasnachts.”

Beiler figures they will sell up to 6,000 donuts throughout the day today.

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