One of the things I like best about Lent is our Catholic tradition of hosting “Fish Fry Fridays.”
Back in the day, Catholics had to abstain from all meat on Fridays — every Friday. But when the Church relaxed its rules (permitting meat on Fridays except during the 40-day period of Lent and on Ash Wednesday), Catholics turned to fish. Reason tells me that was probably to help a struggling fishing industry somewhere, but oh well, fish is a good choice.
Who but a kid can exist for a whole day on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches or macaroni-and-cheese?
In many parishes, it’s the men — often members of the Knights of Columbus — who do the cooking and serving at Fish Fries. Usually, you can find the ladies or the youth group helping by carrying trays for senior citizens, taking up the money, cleaning tables.
It’s nice when everybody gets involved. Kind of homey.
Wise organizers of parish Fish Fries encourage lots of active participation — something about many hands making little work.
And generally, the group hosting the Fish Fry returns a portion of the proceeds back to the parish.
So everybody wins.
The menu typically features any or all of the following: deep-fried pieces of fish, hush puppies, French fries, baked potatoes, coleslaw, applesauce, baked beans, green beans, grilled cheese sandwiches, bread, rolls, lemonade, iced tea, hot coffee, cold beer, and desserts.
Catholics and non-Catholics alike come out to enjoy Friday Fish Fries. Many stick around for the socializing; others opt for carry-out.
But staying is part of the fun.
Fish Fries offer a chance to get together with folks you might not see every day.
And they’re excellent for would-be politicians seeking to “press the flesh” while supporting a worthy cause!
Most parishes hold Fish Fries at the school cafeteria or their parish hall. Those facilities are already paid for (or in the process of being paid for!); they seat a lot of people, are close to the Church, and have things like TVs and kitchens, bathrooms and game rooms for the kids.
As for the time, Fish Fries typically occur during the dinner hour. Parishes often try to hold their weekly Stations of the Cross observance then, too, to “capture” the early or late diners.
With so much fun and good food, Fridays seem more of a celebration than a punishment!