Fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, with a side of stewed tomatoes.
It was the meal of choice on Fridays in families who adhered to the Catholic tradition of meat abstinence.
Where did this practice originate ?
The information is not very clear.
Many believe it is a carry-over from Old Testament fasting traditions. Most people cite Christian teachings of the Apostles, who mandated sacrifice in memory of the crucifixion on Good Friday.
Reinforced in the Middle Ages, it was sometimes attributed to a particular Pope who was an advocate for the struggling fishing industry.
The original intent was to ban all meat-derived food products, including cheese, butter and eggs. The 40 day denial during Lent may have led to the abundance of Easter eggs, the food celebrated as the ban was lifted.
Historically, meat has been expensive, a luxury for those who could afford it; giving it up one day a week was an acceptable sacrifice. Some scholars referred to denying pleasures of the flesh; citing the high zinc content of meat and its effect on libido.
In the late 20th century, the Catholic Church softened its restrictions to meat abstinence only on Fridays during Lent.
In 1962, the owner of a McDonald’s franchise in Ohio created a sandwich to boost struggling Friday sales. The Filet-o-Fish was tested there, became a huge success, and soon went national.
Friday fish fry events have been very popular in certain parts of the country. Fast food restaurants seem to engage in fish sandwich wars every year during Lent.
As for the title of this piece, it is comforting to know that it is okay to eat alligator on Friday.
“The alligator is part of the fish family.”
So said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Louisiana in 2010. As such, it is permissible for Catholics to consume this and other cold blooded reptiles, amphibians, and creatures of the water.
Just thought you should know.
*** Repost inspired by a recent report of this massive alligator with his “catch of the day” casually crossing a Florida golf cart path.
It has been common over here too to have fish on Fridays. But I think that tradition is not kept up everywhere. I still make fish sticks or variations on Fridays.
Old habits die hard. I still think of fish on Friday, but have it other days of the week as well. It seems like a healthy option now, Erika. ☺
I think the same and like it a lot! The boys are a bit fed up over the years…. but they will come over… lol!
I can eat fish every day of my life.
I really enjoy it, Sawsan, the husband…not so much. I sometimes make him a steak, and broil my fish that night. It works for us. ☺
If I fast Fridays I would have to give up fish.
Sacrifice what I love the most.
I guess that was the whole point. Good call. ☺
I recall a theory about precession and how it impacted cultures in antiquity. Basically, what ever the major constellation was during their existence determined many things, including religious iconography. For example, when Taurus was dominant, bulls were buried as part of a religious ceremony in Ancient Egypt (4,000 BC to 1). Minoans worshiped them during this time. Christianity was established (year one to current) during Pisces and I wonder how much of this is related to the constellation. Just food for thought – no pun intended. 😀
Interesting stuff, Rob. Never considered that one. Pretty good “food for thought”. Thanks. ☺
Ughhhh….The smell of those fish sticks stinking up the house is what put me off fish for all of my young life! Until now. I have recently passed through my crustacean period (I love crab, shrimp and lobster), onto my mollusk period (now I like clam chowder), and have finally arrived into my “gill period.” I’m learning that I quite like a nice piece of salmon or halibut if well prepared…who knew??? But alligator????? I don’t think so!!!!
I had it a few times…the first time on a dare. It tastes like chicken. Really. ☺ I grew up with family near/in the Philadelphia area…seafood was fresh, plentiful and always the first choice dining out. You’re so right about the cooking smell, though.
Fish on Fridays was traditional when I was growing up here too. But I’ll pass on the alligator thank you 😉
Ha…it seems it was harvested well in the New Orleans area, and the watermen made the initial inquiry. All about economics. ☺
And availability, I suppose.
🐊 🐊 🐊
Heading out to catch an alligator now. Might take awhile since I live in Western New York, but hey, should be worth it, right?
When we were growing up, the traditional Friday dinner was tuna casserole. Cheap and easy to make, and a little went a long way.
Tuna casserole was one of the few/only fish dishes that my husband had growing up in Pittsburgh area. I still make it, a bit modified. I use cream of chicken soup, Farfalle noodles, and top it with buttered saltine cracker pieces. Good luck on that alligator hunt, CM. ☺ Maybe Lake Erie ???
I have had alligator, I thought it was chewy. As I am not Catholic my Friday menu is not limited… except that I am dieting, which limits my menu entirely. Nice post 🙂
It was on many menus in the South, some good, some bad. Deep fried seemed the most popular. (not a dieter’s choice.) Thanks, Sadie. 🐊
I was 18 in 1960. I seem to remember the Friday abstinence had been relaxed by then, although I could be wrong. There are, however, still longer queues outside fish and chip shops in UK on Fridays
Somehow, I picture fish and chips as a great option just about any day in UK, Derrick. With malt vinegar. Getting close to lunchtime here. ☺
It is, oh, it is. It was never any hardship
Just FYI, Catholic bishops in 1966 declared that ignoring meat abstinence was no longer a sin. So, of course, it became commonplace. They redefined the issue in 1983, restricting meat on Fridays during Lent only. (According to Canon Law). ☺
Thanks, Van. My memory is not perfect, especially when dates are concerned 🙂
I was a teen and remember my father celebrating when he could have meat on Friday, but I had to research the exact dates. ☺
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🐊 Thank you. 🐊
That photo actually made me hungry. 😎 Fish sticks and mac n’ cheese. Now that’s something I have had in many years.
oops, I meant *haven’t* had…
I got it, Julie. And that photo spoke to me as well. Especially since it featured homemade mac and cheese, and not the Kraft box stuff that my kids came to love. I made the real deal for them, and they didn’t recognize it…it wasn’t orange. ☺
Wooo very interesting Van! Never knew the history, wow alligator?
Yep. It’s pretty popular in the South, you can find it in a lot of grocery stores, if you dare to cook it yourself. ☺
Wow! I don’t think I would be brave enough!
Well you don’t say *with tongue in cheek* someone should have mentioned alligator all these weeks 😉 I actually don’t mind fish fingers or any variation of fish through the season. Healthier too.
Pretty much any reptile or amphibian qualifies as non-meat. ☺ Enjoy.
Let me use the opportunity to invite you to the Bloggers brunch that I am hosting over the weekend Saturday – Sunday. I believe it will be fun to mingle with others. The invitation is titled, It’s Brunch Party Time. I will send one out again tomorrow. My regards.
Thanks, Jacqueline. I’ll be stopping by your site. 💖
Although I am not Catholic, I too grew up eating fish on Fridays because our school dinners were always fish then to accommodate the Catholic students. Alligator being considered fish interested me because Scotland had a similar thing whereby a Papal Bull was issued that permitted eating seal on Fridays as it was considered fish but that was many centuries ago. Getting your animal kingdoms wrong in the 21st Century is definitely inexcusable. I have eaten alligator a long time ago. I found it to be really too chewy for my liking.
Seal ? That’s interesting, isn’t it ? I’ve heard that chewy alligator comment a bit. Must need tenderizing. 🔨 🐊 🔨
Alligators are quite muscular so that must be why their meat is chewy.
A lot of people only eat fish on Fridays over here too, Can’t think that crocodile or alligator would go down very well though!
It’s an acquired taste ??? 🐊
HA! I think it must be. I am a delicate little flower and it would probably be too rich for my blood!!!!! 😉😉😉😉😉
Lol, little flower. ☺
Gee, I always thought the tradition began to help the fisherman but I like your version better..:)
That’s what my husband has always said…the apostles were fisherman, after all. ☺
Haha! My daughter has recently decided she likes fish sticks, so they are on the menu many days of the week. At least she eats ’em! I’m not sure she’d like alligator though. 🙂
Best not to ruin things for her. ☺ I remember being so excited when the kids actually liked a food.
We have a special inclination to fish…we love to have it almost everyday… 😀
I could live with that. ☺
Fridays do still come with them thoughts I must eat fish. As for alligators I didn’t even know men ate them. The thought makes me kind of queasy.
I never saw it before moving to the South, Amy. 🐊
Huh. Well don’t that beat all, Van! No thank you!
Such a cool post, Van! That photo of food up there is a little on the yellow side, though! I’m sure you’ve heard the term that we should “eat a rainbow!” Need lots of colorful fruits and veggies added to that plate! I eat fish all the time – have wild caught salmon almost every week. Love all sorts of seafood including sushi. And I have seen alligator nuggets on menus many times down South. I tried one once and it does taste just like chicken! 🙂
The stewed tomatoes on the side…always helped with a bit of color. My daughter is a sushi fan, tried to convert me. I like tempura, and smoked fish, but not sushi so much.☺
Oh that’s right – I forgot the tomatoes were there – that makes it much better! Try California rolls sometime if you haven’t already. They have cooked crab and cucumber in them and a few other things. You might like them! But I know sushi isn’t for everyone. 🙂
mac & cheese and fried fish sticks. yep, that’s what I grew up on.
It was a Friday favorite, Jim. ☺
I heard it was to support the fishing industry. That the boats would come in on Friday and the fish needed to go. Interesting that the rules bend and alligator is “fishy” enough. Good to know 😀
🎣 The fishing industry argument is a strong one, Diana. 🎣
Yep. When I was a kid, Fridays were regularly about mac and cheese and the occasional fish stick. Never had stewed tomatoes though. My mom also occasionally made frozen sole filets, which we had to eat carefully because there may be bones in them. Which turned me off of fish for pretty much the rest of my life.
We progressed to beer- battered fresh sole or haddock. It was quite a production. Dad set up a fryer in the basement, lined the walls with newspaper, fried a few at a time. Took a long while, and a few beers. ☺ You’re right, the bones were an issue.
School lunches on Friday’s always involved fish. It was boiled to death, just a slab of white. We thought it looked like a dead man’s bottom. Never enjoyed it. I like fish now.
Our school fish was baked, but mostly breading. I wouldn’t have liked the “dead man’s bottom” either. ☺ At least you tried it again later. Husband says school lunch mac and cheese ruined him for life.
I know alligator sales must be booming!
No doubt. 🐊
Most of the US has their regular Friday Fish frys throughout lent – in Wisconsin – we have fish frys EVERY Friday of the year.
The wuzband was shocked the first time we went out of state, and he couldn’t order the fish fry on Friday…
It must be really big in the Midwest. Michigan had them all year as well. Thanks, Peg. ☺
Our local Supermarket even has Fish Fridays where they slash the price of fish by 20%. However, I still have the odd meat pie on a Friday instead of fish, but I always have chips (fries). I hope I’m forgiven, Van 😄
No worries, Hugh, that odd meat pie is always a good choice. ☺
I don’t love alligator, but it’s alright. I wouldn’t wanna eat it every Friday. I could eat fish every day, which is why it’s especially nice to live so near a large Catholic church and their delicious fish fries! 😀
My younger two don’t like fish except tuna and sushi. It’s absurd and makes me feel a bit stabby, but oh well, more fish for me!
I was the only fish eater in the family, until my kids’ grew into a better palate. ☺
Interesting about the eggs!
Not gonna eat no alligators!
I probably won’t either. At least not any more. ☺
You ate the alligator?
I tried it when living in the South. It’s pretty available. Tasted like chicken, only more chewy.
Chewy! Nope! I’ll stick with the chicken!
Lovely! I just posted about my favorite places to eat in Nola, check it out if you’d like, XO
Thanks for the link. ☺
Yes the theme of Fish on Fridays for religious reasons as I remember them, then I think somewhere the rules got changed 🙂 loved reading about that little bit of History surround it all, So thank you Van.. Take care and enjoy a good weekend.. Love to you.. Sue xxx
Thanks so much, Sue. 💛 💚 💙
Haha! Van, thank you for this absolutely delightful post. I had not heard that about the alligator (fish). As for “Fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, with a side of stewed tomatoes” I enjoy each separately, but have not heard of the combination together. 😀 (But even at my age, there are so many things of which I’ve not heard!) Hmmm… I could have that for dinner tonight…
My pleasure, Teagan. I should have mentioned…that was also a very popular Friday school lunch back in the day. Enjoy. 💝
Fascinating Van! That filet of fish thing was a stroke of genius ahahaha. ❤
It’s still on the menu, Diana. 🐟
We’re not Catholic but what a coincidence that we had macaroni and cheese, fish sticks and English peas last night! I love fish sticks, I always eat too many of them.
Hmmm…seems I haven’t had them myself for quite a while now, Ron. (or mac and cheese..have to fix that). Thanks.
Lord knows I ain’t been to mass in a while but I will save that confession for Father McDonald. LOL!
Anyway, I am Catholic and this is interesting to know—even though I have no plans to eat any type of reptile/amphibian. LOL!!
Ha ha…Father Mac. And about those alternate meats…you just never know where they’ll show up, G.
I used to love fish sticks as a kid but would surely gag on them today. We did the whole fish sticks, mac & cheese and I can’t remember what vegetable. Guess I never thought of alligators being in the fish family but the thought of eating one is a tad distasteful. I remember trying a very small piece at this New Orleans-style restaurant here in Pittsburgh but I couldn’t get past it being alligator.
I understand that, Steph. I was challenged to try “Rocky Mountain oysters” while living out west.( So you don’t have to google…they are sheep testicles.) Pass.
Omg. Ewwww!! Just as I was getting ready to google I saw it (sheep testicles). Reminds of one of my last jobs my boss and his wife traveled all over the world and they’d bring back the craziest stuff. This one thing they sat in the middle of our conference room table and asked us to guess what it was. It ended up being bull’s testicles. And I’m sitting there wondering what in the world one would do with it but I guess this is one indicator of having too much money but to each his own.
A very Interesting post. I don’t fancy alligator but I do love fish. I would eat it every day if I could…😊
I agree, Brigid. A real favorite. 🐠
That’s good to know, Van. Excuse me while I just pop out to strangle an alligator for dinner.
🐊 Good luck, Bun. 🐊
Hey, great icons!
We were not Catholic but my father had a thing for Fish & Chips and growing up we would have most Fridays when he was on a short assignment. Even when he was really very ill and required blood transfusions beginning monthly and then weekly.. he told them he could only attend hospital for the whole day on Fridays.. I asked him why he chose that day and he said they always served them Fish & Chips and it was the only edible meal in the week! I am sure wherever he is now.. Friday’s will be little different! Thanks Van..
Wise man, your dad. Thanks for sharing that, Sally. Fish & Chips is special…haven’t had it done well for a long time now.
Alligator is okay, but not something I’d go out of my way for. It’s a little too chewy.
I thought the same, Linda. I tried it on a dare, was told it “tasted like chicken.”
As a young Catholic boy, I remember we did not eat meat on Fridays. Fish, mac and cheese, vegetable soup, or perogies etc were substituted. Slowly, I began to prefer not eating meat anyways.
Ah…the pierogi, many were hand-made in the “hood” where I was raised, lots of proud Eastern Europeans. Thanks, Eddie.
Van, I’d never heard the story about the McDonalds Filet-O-Fish and how it came to be—that was the big fish story that got away from me—but that was interesting. You’ll not find that kind of fact in school history books—illustrating just how uninteresting our educational system can be at times. However, it is comforting to know I can fish for alligator on Fridays. Now I’m just gonna need a bigger boat—I don’t think this rubber raft of mine is gonna cut it. 😀
You’re gonna need a bigger boat ! For sure, Paul. Best wishes, nice knowing you.
LOL! Glug, glug, chomp, chomp. 😀
Haha! Not being Catholic I kind of envied my friends their sure Friday fried fish dinners when I was younger. Firdays were very often hot dog or stuffed bell pepper night at my house growing up. Ugg. Methinks the Archbishop likes alligator. 😉
You might just have something there…maybe his family raises them for food ??? Thanks.
Hmmmmm….or he hates real fish. 😂
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Interesting food for thought here, pun intended, lol. I’ll eat octopus, but not sure about alligator. 🙂
I tried it while living in the South, it’s much more available there, Deb.
Must be somewhat ‘chewy’, lol. 😉
The only thing I can stand on that Friday menu are the stewed tomatoes. I do NOT eat tuna & noodles OR macaroni & cheese and haven’t since I graduated college (decades ago now) – overexposed to what my younger siblings would eat without complaining.
Can’t abide fish sticks (another kid fav). I actually thought I didn’t like fish at all until I was almost 30, thanks to canned tuna and fish sticks – even clam chowder didn’t appeal until the first time I had it made from scratch (creamy New England, not Manhattan/tomato style tho’). Grad school in New Orleans educated my taste buds considerably – which is where I learned I loved oysters, mussels and crayfish.
Not Catholic, but I’d give alligator a try — I was brought up to try everything at least once. I draw the line at bugs, however – even chocolate covered! I just can’t wrap my head around it, despite the fact that they are supposed to be an excellent source of protein and some folks say they are delicious.
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Moving around the country opened my eyes and tastes as well, but I’m so with you on the insects…chocolate covered or not ! Thanks, Madelyn.
I remember that Lent in our home back then automatically meant lots of fish, in all sorts of ramifications, now it’s been narrowed down to good Friday. I can’t imagine eating an Alligator – maybe I could so long as I don’t know that particular information.
Yep. Not knowing what it is…always works, J.
So interesting!! Great post!
Oh yes, we were a fish sticks on Friday family…