Just Because You are Catholic Doesn’t Mean You Have to Suffer During Lent

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter-Ann Arbor, Michigan

What does Lent mean to you?  To me, as a kid growing up as a good Congregationalist, all it meant was that I had to hear all my Catholic buddies complain about having to eat that nasty fish on Fridays.

Their moms would buy a nice (old ) piece of ocean perch (packed in Canada with some nice Tri-poly phosphates) or some week-old whitefish or maybe some delicious old Turbot from Greenland, shipped frozen and thawed for god knows how long. Getting ready to prepare dinner they would open that wrapper and Mom would say, “WHOA! that does smell a little “fishy” doesn’t it? I think thats normal but just in case I’ll make sure it’s cooked well done.”  This explains why a lot of Catholics hate fish, they grew up on less than fresh fish with the hell cooked out of it.

Consider this reminiscence from our friend, Detroiter Brian Cleary:

…my brothers and I lived in dread of Fridays generally but Lent was the time of really exquisite suffering. Catholics are encouraged during that season to “give something up,” the assumption being that that “something” be something one enjoyed. However when I suggested to my mother that I had chosen to give up her scrumptious salmon patties just liberated out of World War II surplus tins and cooked until they had achieved the consistency of Scottish shortbread, she nixed the idea out of hand. It seems she considered our family menu her personal baliwick and a thing not to be questioned. Render unto Jesus the things that are his to be decided, etc. So it was back, with regret, to one’s after-all somewhat short list of enjoyments.

Well into my thirties I remained deeply puzzled by reports I was receiving, with a frequency that increased apace with the growing success of Monahan’s Seafood, testifying to the fabulous excellence of salmon. People having reached the age of majority actually eat that stuff? I marvelled. We live and learn—thanks Mike, for leading us out of the desert and into the Promised Land…

Back in the early days at our fish market, in the 80’s, I remember that the Lenten season was supposed to be a time of huge fish sales. Supermarket fish, frozen fish sticks and Friday night fish frys were big, but our higher-end more expensive fish didn’t fly for most folks. I really think that for many Catholics, eating fish during lent was looked at as more of a “duty” than of something special that should truly be enjoyed. Thankfully over time, many of us—including Catholics—have learned to have  higher expectations of quality in their fresh fish. Now the healthfulness, flavor, seasonality, goodness and pleasure of a nice fish dinner is something to celebrate instead of dread. This week, we’re sharing an updated recipe for the dreaded salmon patty, we think even Brian will like this one!

Monahan's Seafood

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