Something fishy: meatless Fridays return to England and Wales today

And a priest has a few observations, along with some recipes:

The Filet-o-Fish sandwich was added to McDonalds’ menus in 1962 after Louis Groen, owner of the chain’s Cincinnati franchises, noticed that his restaurants experienced a sharp drop in sales every Friday. Even today, 25 per cent of the 300 million Filets-o-Fish sold annually in the US are during the 40 days of Lent.

Many campaigners have recently urged Catholics not to embrace fish with too much gusto as part of their Friday observance, pointing out that more than a few species of fish are dangerously depleted. Fish at the top of the food chain – shark, swordfish, tuna – are best avoided because not only are they endangered, they are also high in mercury. But some of the fish that are best for you, including anchovies, sardines and mackerel, are well managed and in some cases abundant. It seems clear, too, that sitting down to a steaming dish of Lobster Thermidor is hardly in the spirit of Friday abstinence, so perhaps now is the time to try less glamorous varieties (such as pollack, coley and whiting).

Yet, what we are asked to do is abstain from meat, not indulge in fish, and in England and Wales there is no need to rely on bizarre meat substitutes or seek to have ducks reclassified as fish; we can simply eat vegetables (though vegetarians and what Anthony Bourdain calls “their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans”, will have to find another form of abstinence). Nigel Slater’s recent two-volume paean to the vegetable garden, Tender, has more than enough vegetable recipes to keep most cooks going for a lifetime, and even the champion carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall claims to have been eating “a lot less meat”.

Abstaining from meat is a small gesture intended to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice; an absence of flesh on the dining table that leads us to recall the Lord’s gift of his own flesh on the Cross. It will occasionally be inconvenient, that’s the point, but it should always be joyful.

Check out his recipes and more at the link.


  1. As a vegetarian, I am always amused by people who ask, “Yeah, but you eat fish, right?” My answer is always, “Yuck, no. I didn’t eat fish BEFORE I became a veg!”

  2. I doubt there is a lot of fish in the McDonald’s Filets-o-Fish, squeeze it and its 90% oil, the rest is is nondescript fish matter of some kind, so to environmentalists, lighten up!

    I rather have a tuna steak… yummy….!

  3. It’s interesting that the English and Welsh bishops were so conservative. Why not take the pre-conciliar abstinence a step further, and legislate no meat at all on Fridays?

  4. Because on those days when people didn’t eat fish, they also weren’t allowed to eat dairy, use butter, or pretty much eat any Northern European food. It was called “Lent” and “Advent” and “Ember Days”. And when the Irish really got around to it on Good Friday, they only ate the most low-calorie seaweed, or nothing. Not even water.

    Most Northern Europeans have this thing called “work” that they still have to do on Friday, even during Lent and Advent, and people who tried to keep the fast and work usually didn’t make it; so they were always being dispensed from the “black fast”. After a while, the bishops got tired of having little old ladies and sick people desperate to fast and not being allowed, and healthy people having to work and not being allowed to fast, and the only people doing the black fast were religious and layabouts. So they just let the religious orders set their own diets, and if people who didn’t have to work wanted to fast more, that was up to them and their ingenuity.

    Trader Joe’s sells salty seaweed snacks, for maybe 5 calories a sheet. Enjoy your fast, Todd darlin’.

  5. After all the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but instead it is righteous ( that state which makes a person acceptable to God ) and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

  6. Re: Maureen #4

    “Because on those days when people didn’t eat fish, they also weren’t allowed to eat dairy, use butter, or pretty much eat any Northern European food. It was called “Lent” and “Advent” and “Ember Days”.

    When and where did this all occur? This may have been more “Irish” than universal Catholicism.

    I am old enough to remember Pre-Vatican Abstinence Rules and “flesh meat” was the only prohibition: eggs and dairy were never an issue.

    Our standard Friday evening meal was canned salmon patties (which, to make properly, you have to add one egg); box macaroni and cheese; and broccoli. Milk and bread and butter was always served.

  7. Fiergenholt, I think Maureen is talking about centuries ago.

    But as for what was allowed under the 20th Century abstinence rules, I have been told on credible authority that some Jesuits from Fordham used to delight in their knowledge that the prohibition was on consuming the flesh of four-footed animals and using that knowledge to go to restaurants and conspicuously enjoy dinners of chicken (as a way of educating the laity, no doubt).

  8. Re:7 Naturgesetz

    BTW: did you ever notice that graduates of Jesuit colleges and universities tend stand out in a crowd. They are very unlike graduates of any Catholic college anywhere else.

    In a crowd of Catholic alumni, I might hear: “Did you know that “so-and-so” was a graduate of Creighton (OR Xavier; Fordham; Marquette; Detroit; Spring Hill; John Carroll; Georgetown — take your pick)?” and my reply might be “Why does that not surprise me?”

  9. Bummer, my family only went to a public college.

  10. I heard the story of a Catholic family whose “meatless” Friday dinner consisted of Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup (the one in the pouch where you add water.) Their logic was that none of them had ever seen a piece of chicken in there yet!

  11. Well, I went meatless myself today. It didn’t kill me. ;)

  12. Deacon Norb, From what I have seen of those who went to Jesuit colleges, they often stand out because they dissent from Catholic teaching which is a shame. Once the Jesuit were there to defend Catholic teaching, but that has been missing from most for a very long time.

  13. Greta #12

    You are not the first one to make that assertion but I have never seen any factual support that Jesuit universities breed a high level of heretics or even dissenters.

    In other words, I do not believe you can prove that assertion. If you cannot, then please use the “IMO” or “IMHO” prefix and state it as you opinion.

    But, you know what I’d rather see you do first, is to ask to sit in on a senior theology seminar at Xavier. That is probably a local bus trip for you.

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