Monday, March 8, 2010

Weird Lenten Meals Forced Upon Me... and MORE!

Growing up Catholic meant that there was NO MEAT on Fridays. I never really cared too much for Lent, because of two things:

1) Gramma Stella wouldn’t give me any candy after lunch
2) Weird dinners on Friday

OK, so the dinners weren’t always weird. But with a family farm in the picture and plenty of access to fresh eggs, one of the go-to meals was BEANS and EGGS. Basically, this was a couple of cans of vegetarian beans warmed up and served with your choice of fried egg. By choice of fried egg, I mean you could have it fried or you could go without. This was often served with soft white bread and plenty of butter or margarine and a glass of milk.

I NEVER eat fried eggs anymore. No joke. It’s even hard for me to watch the hubs eat his sunny side ups. I must have choked down hundreds of eggs when I was a kid (maybe thousands!). Fried eggs for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs, and the after school snack of choice – A FRIED EGG! No cookies and milk for us!

Another go to was the Salmon Patty. I don’t know who thought this horrific dish up, but I remember thinking I was being punished for being Catholic. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE SALMON! But that stuff that comes in a can was mixed with bread, eggs and other stuff and it was just… well, icky.

The BEST part about being Catholic during Lent was that once in a while, we got to go to a FISH FRY! These were put on by some fraternal organization, usually the Elks, the Moose or the Eagles, and consisted of all types of fresh Lake Michigan caught fish, usually deep-fried to a crunchy golden brown goodness. French fries, cole slaw and green beans were always on the menu, and we always got DESSERT!!! (Susu likes pie. Amen.)

Second best to the fraternal order of the fish fry, was the home-cooked smelt fry. Smelt are little fish that would run in the early spring, and a lot of times they would wash ashore on the beach. The beach would literally be COVERED with smelt. Anyway, after the big catch came the worst part about the smelt - cleaning them. I would watch my dad do it, chopping off the heads and cleaning out the guts. Once we were old enough, my older sister Jean and I cleaned the fish. Come to think of it, that usually meant that SUSAN cleaned the fish.

The cool thing about smelt is that you basically eat the whole thing – fins and bones included. Dad would dredge them in some seasoned flour and deep fry them until they were golden. We’d eat them with French fries, lots of tartar sauce with homemade pickle relish and a lettuce and pineapple salad.

Sometimes, Dad would make us pancakes for dinner. My mom worked nights, and if Dad came home from work and was not too tired, he would make us all pancakes. Pancakes with lots of butter and syrup and a big glass of milk is still one of my favorite meals – whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dad pancakes are always the best - just ask any kid!

I can’t say that I miss beans and eggs night (or salmon patty or fish stick night), but I DO miss pancake night. And I haven’t found a fish fry down here in Texas (but then I haven’t looked too hard either). The best part of being a kid was dinner around the table with everyone and even doing the dishes. (Ask my mother why she never got a dishwasher, and she’ll tell you she had FOUR KIDS for crying out loud.)

I don’t keep Lent anymore. I mean the no meat on Friday’s part. I’ll write about the guilt I felt after eating a Friday hamburger during Lent at another time.

Good old Catholic guilt. Amen.