I had a hamburger for lunch. Next Friday:
Catholics are getting ready for Lent — and so are purveyors of fish:
Aw Shucks & Big Shucks restaurants, for example, will serve grilled tilapia with rice and veggies for $8.95 on Fridays during Lent. That’s two $2 off the regular price, which, ahem, would fit nicely in the collection plate on Sunday, perhaps. And Taco Cabana restaurants sent around a press release last week announcing that through mid-April the chain will bring back its “fan favorite” shrimp Tampico, “just in time for the Lenten season.”
Yes, in a miracle of modern marketing, even a period penance, prayer and sacrifice can be turned into an opportunity to make a buck. (To be fair, Taco Cabana is based in heavily Catholic San Antonio, and anyone who has ever tried to get a lunch table at a fish restaurant in there on a Lenten Friday can appreciate the chain’s P.R. savvy.)
Even in Dallas, whose diocese is home to 1.2 million Catholics, Lent is a boom time for fish sellers. Jon Alexis, owner of T.J.’s Fresh Seafood Market, estimates his Friday sales rise about 10 percent during Lent. (It doesn’t hurt that his market is not far from Jesuit Prep and the shop is a school booster.)
“It’s huge. It’s great,” Alexis says. “I wish every religion commanded people to eat fish.”
Roughly half the parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will start Lenten fish fries next week, continuing every Friday through April 22nd.
William Hill, communications consultant to the Diocese and a chronicler of the tradition, said at least 96 parishes will be serving fried fish sandwiches and other seafood suppers throughout Lent, which begins March 9th with Ash Wednesday.
It’s a combination social event and revenue-raiser, though data is not collected on how much the fish fries generate.
“As far as I know, it is (a revenue-generator),” Hill said. “The three or so parishes that do it year round obviously make some money from it. The rest of them sell on Fridays and Ash Wednesday.”
The annual record for combined fish consumption was 2006 when the participating parishes went through 205,000 pounds during the nearly two-month season. For an individual parish, Hill said Holy Angel, Hays, sold 14,000 pounds of fish during Lent 2009.
Truth be told, fish fries aren’t that big in Brooklyn. But what are they doing in your neck of the woods?