Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fish Fry Heaven

We went to our friends Neil and Sarah's house for a fish fry on Friday. It was delicious. Neil fries fish southern style--throwing catfish in a fry daddy and serving the pieces with Vidalia onions. The fish smelled so good cooking that Neil and Sarah's dog tried to lick the boiling oil. Luckily, they saved her from herself. Neil said he liked his fry daddy so much he was going to buy a bigger one. Two bigger ones, in fact. Sarah made chocolate pecan pie. Justin and I competed for the leftovers the next day.

In Kansas City, the food can go either way: southern (cornbread, fried chicken, pecan pie) or midwestern (barbeque. Or maybe that's southern, too.)

Anyway, fish fries can also go either way: southern--a potluck party featuring cornmeal battered fish and hushpuppies, or Midwestern--a Catholic tradition that in places like Milwaulkee became a Friday night mainstay in restaurants even outside of Lent. (I think the rule used to be you couldn't eat meat on Fridays all year. What a horrible sacrifice! Fried fish every Friday. I couldn't live like that.)

Seriously, I never understood how eating fish and drinking beer made it onto the list of Lenten sacrifices. While squeezing lemon slices onto a second helping of fried white fish at a church fish fry, watching my kids eat something other than candy with wild abandon for the first time, since, well, since last Friday, laughing with friends you didn't know were going to be there, paying the Ladies Auxilary to the Knights of Columbus--the Damsels of Columbus, if you will--for a slice of chocolate cake, I always half expect a priest to come in and "catch us." More likely, he gets some grub for himself and digs in.

Three things bring people together: fish fries, barbeques and cookouts. Well, other things bring people together. Baptisms. Weddings (Justin and mine was six years ago to this day, in fact.) Christmas. Funerals.

But few things draw large groups of people together for no reason other than the food itself.

If someone says, "We're smoking some ribs tonight. You want to come over?" you don't ask, "What the occasion?"

Because they would say, "We're smoking some ribs tonight."

Now fish fries, in Kansas City at least, sort of have a reason: Lent. Catholic churches host Friday fish fries because you can't eat meat. Some are southern, or cornmeal based, others Midwestern, or flour based. They all involve children running around like mad. Fish fries are a favorite among young families, the parents of which used to drink beer for dinner on Fridays but now need to provide sustenance for their children.

I never know what to cook on a Lenten Friday since Justin doesn't consider popcorn to be dinner. Neil and Sarah mentioned at their house that men just don't think of side dishes as a meal. Come to think of it, maybe we have the all-male priesthood to thank for fish being allowed during Lent. Dinner just isn't dinner without an animal getting it's head chopped off, as far as men are concerned.

To a vegan like me, it is sickening. That's why tonight, for our anniversary, I'm making a pot roast. Here in the Midwest, our cows are so hearty and prize-fighter tough, we harvest meat like wool. Shave off a little and they grow it right back. At least, that's what I tell myself when I think of those poor, dumb cows that unknowingly entertained our family during drives across Kansas for vacation in Colorado.

"Look!" my brothers and I would say. "A cow!"

"A cow standing in a pond!"

"A cow eating grass!"

"Three cows in a pond!"

"Another cow eating grass!"

We could play that game for 12 hours. The cows didn't even know we were talking about them. They were so dumb.

Nothing against real vegans, but I don't think non-animal food has the same draw as fish fries and barbeques. It's not that I don't like vegatables, fruit or other veganables, such as, um, corn oil or dry bread. I just don't trust people who choose personal convictions over food to take dinner seriously.

I learned this through countless times of getting burned at suposedly all-you-can-eat vegan buffets. Countless, at least, if you can't count to one.

One time, my friend and I went to a Hare Krishna rally because it promised free food (vegetarian, of course.) It turned out that by free food, they meant a free performance about food. It was a pop opera decrying the evil of McDonalds. It's a good thing french fry rhymes with cry because that made for heartwrenching lyrics. But because my friend and I had hearts of stone, we got the giggles so bad we had to leave in the middle of the second song. We booked out of that theater at lightning speed because we hadn't read the brochures they gave us to know if the Krishnas were a peaceful people.

They look pretty peaceful, though, so we'll probably go to hell for laughing at their peace-loving religious event.

I just hope they have fish fries down there.


Anonymous Pat said...

Very funny! I'm craving fried fish now!! Might have to go to Long John Silver's for lunch!!

8:39 AM  

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