Fish for Lent?

They starved me for weeks, they thought they’d teach me fear
I fed on cellmates’ dreams, it gave me fine ideas
When they cut me loose, the time had served me well
I made allies in heaven, I made comrades in hell

I was a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild

I make angels dance and drop to their knees
When I enter a church the feet of statues bleed
I understand the fate of all my enemies
Just like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

I was a Catholic boy
I was redeemed through pain
And not through joy

I watched the sweetest psalm stolen by our choir
I dreamed of martyrs’ bones hanging from a wire
I make a contribution, I get absolution
I make a resolution to purify my soul

I’m a Catholic boy
Redeemed through pain
Not through joy

And they can’t touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me
I got baptism, I got penance
I got communion, I got extreme unction
Man, I’ve got confirmation

I was a Catholic boy
Redeemed through pain
And not through joy

And now I’m a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can

-Jim Carroll, Catholic Boy

Like the late, great Jim Carroll, I am a recovering Catholic, so the beginning of Lent brings back childhood nightmares of eating frozen fish sticks every Friday for what seemed like an eternity. Even the memory of those things are enough to make me start thinking that I hate fish again. It took me many, many years to get over the Mrs. Paul-induced ichthyophobia, which is really a shame since I grew up on Lake Erie. Some of the best tasting fish in the world are the perch and walleye pulled from that ugly green water.

This isn’t going to be another one of those tired old articles about how to not suffer too much during Lent. In fact, if you are a believer who devoutly gives up meat for the horrors of something like shrimp or sushi, you should probably stop reading right now and go get yourself some *&#%ing tilapia.

Okay, are they gone? Cool, they’re nice folks, but all that incense and shit was throwing off the taste of my wine. Now we can talk about them.

Once upon a time, like the time referred to in my opening paragraph, eating fish instead of meat was truly a sacrifice for a lot of people. In addition to the aforementioned dried out and breaded logs of chopped fish scraps, other types of fish were not all that tasty much of the time. Fish needs to be handled properly, and cooked correctly, or it can be quite unappetizing. Growing up, I mainly only had fish sticks, heavily-breaded and overcooked ‘fresh’ fish, tuna casserole or worst of all, those squares of cod held floating in congealed margarine on some steam table for God knows how long.

Talk about sacrifice! These days however, just about everyone has access to high-quality fresh fish. Even the most landlocked areas can get flash-frozen Sashimi-grade tuna. Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, sometimes that stuff is even better than what is sold as fresh. Chefs, and even most home cooks, know that fish should never be overcooked. As great as it tastes these days, the old rule should probably be changed to make people give up fish for Lent. You want to sacrifice, put down that spicy tuna roll and go eat at Denny’s instead.

Now if you are a heathen or a recovering Catholic like me, you could spend every single day of Lent chowing down on dry-aged sirloin, caveman style pork chops, and thick burgers dripping juice down your arms with every bite, and not even feel the slightest twinge of guilt. You really could, but why deprive yourself like that? Have some fish now and then! Just not on Fridays because there is always a slight chance that the sizzle of your steak might actually make someone who ordered the shrimp scampi enjoy it a little less. Order it nice and rare too. After all, you’re doing God’s work.

From around these here Interwebs, here are some amazing seafood recipes:

Then there is the Hungry Mouse who goes the complete opposite direction with a recipe for what just may be my favorite beefy dish in the world!

Since we opened with a song, it only makes sense to close with one. I dedicate this one to Mrs. Paul.

I’m not angry, I’m not angry anymore.
Ooh, I know what you’re doin’.
I know where you’ve been.
I know where, but I don’t care,
’cause there’s no such thing as an original sin.

-Elvis Costello, I’m Not Angry

Can I get an ‘Amen?”

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