American Friday Fish Fries
More than Lent observance; less than fundraising; a Friday fish fry is about community
The Fish & Seafood Tribe. Hmmm....Sushi. Crab. Lobster tails. Salmon. More Salmon. Nose-to-tail. Oysters. Grilled tuna. Still more salmon. Looks like a classy place. (Opens door)
Hi, y'all. Welcome to the Friday Fish Fry. You may be a bit bemused about the Friday Fish Fry concept. Especially if you live on an island, and fish & chips is the national pub meal, every day, except perhaps Sunday.
Simply put: Americans do not eat as much fish as the rest of you do. It's too damn healthy. Seriously, we do have a lot of ocean coastline. We have several large lakes. Some may say they're great. We have a state allegedly with 10,000 lakes within it. Their license plates even say so.
Even in Flyover Country, we have very voluminous rivers. Most, however, are positively filthy, one is even infested with flying carp so we can't water ski on it anymore. Nevertheless, all of our waterways hold a wide variety of edible, sustainable fish, so it isn't an issue of supply. But we also have about a zillion chickens, a bunch of tasty cows and pigs. Don't forget, everyone here (except me) has a gun! Thus, they can shoot deer, ducks, geese, squirrels, skunks, what have you, for a "free" meal. On most American menus, fish gets pushed down near the bottom.
Except on Fridays at Lent. The Church industry and the Gluttony industry got together to establish the Friday Fish Fry, essentially making what was intended to be an occasion of sacrifice into a fundraising event that has become quite successful. People love fish frys; it honestly seems to have become a minor holiday of sorts. Primarily held at Catholic churches, but also at other churches as well as civic organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or fraternal organizations such as the Moose, Elks, etc., the Friday Lenten Fish Fry has become something people look forward to.
Now, the food itself. Almost everything is deep fried: the fish; french fries; and if you're real lucky, perhaps some polenta or hush puppies. Some places will refill your empty plate, while others won't. In most instances, the fish itself is locally sourced: Wisconsin walleye; Missouri catfish; Great Lakes perch. In our area, where we're not that close to lakes and the rivers are polluted, the good frys use cod or haddock, the cheap ones use pollock or tilapia. If there is some competition in the area, organizations will add other inexpensive items to set them apart. Our local offered fried chicken for the 'heathens' as well as spaghetti in an attempt to cater to the largely Italian-American customers in the area. Usually some cabbage slaw and a pitcher of beer rounds out the meal.
America is a very divided country. But on a few Friday evenings in March, a few planks of fried fish and some cold beer manage to do what none of our elected officials can: bring us together for some good food and pleasant conversation. So even though nobody is truly fasting as the Good Lord intended, this is a great good thing.
What do they serve at your local fish fry?