Now that the COVID restrictions are being lifted, those of who are vaccinated may safely participate in our favorite summer activities. For many it will be the Friday Fish Fry. All throughout the nation people will be gathering to enjoy platters of crispy fried fish, but where exactly did this “day of the week” tradition begin?
According to Wikipedia the “American” Friday Fish Fry originated in the Midwest during the 1920’s and 1930s. It was at a time “when local bars were unable to sell beer during Prohibition. Fried fish dinners were a very profitable source of new income, as fish were both plentiful from the many lakes in the area, as well as relatively low cost,” Still pubs and taprooms in all parts of the nation interpret the Friday Fish Fry just as they like it. Sometimes it is offered family style or “all you can eat.” In other instances, it is serve on a plate with all the “sides” and a cold glass beer. And never forget how great neighborhood or backyard fish fries can be!
A documentary entitled Fish Fry Milwaukee was produced in 2009 and chronicled the popularity of fish fries in the state of Wisconsin. There is also an advertising campaign by Travel Wisconsin entitle “Come Fry With Me.” This online feature presents the Christian background of this tradition as “Friday is associated with the crucifixion of Christ – remembered on Good Friday during the Easter weekend – and so the day became one of abstinence – specifically, from meat. While beef or chicken were considered “hot” as they were the flesh of warm-blooded creatures, the flesh of fish was considered “cool” and thus got a free pass.”
Although a bit flip, the facts are true. Christians have been eating fish on Fridays for a long time. The U.S. Catholic reminds us that it was on a Friday, the sixth day of creation, that God created the animal kingdom. The Friday Fast is a practice which allows the followers of Christ to honor the sacrifice that he made for all humanity. Currently Catholic members between the ages of 18 to 59 refrain from eating “animal flesh” on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent. Again we are reminded in the U.S. Catholic that nothing that we eat makes us evil. Fasting or abstinence is simply undertaken to bring ourselves a little bit closer to the Lord.
Still there’s another side to the Friday Fish Fry, the neighbor fundraiser for local churches and charitable causes. Henry Busby, pastor of Solid Rock Baptist Church in South Philadelphia states “Fish has always been a paramount emblem of gathering, of fellowship, of community throughout the church and throughout the community as a whole,” He cites the parable of the loaves and the fishes, as well as how “a fish” was a secret symbol of the early Christians. It should be pointed out that astrologers claim that the birth of Christ marked the beginning of the astrological age of Pisces or the Fishes. He said to Simon called Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And supposedly Christ died on a Friday.
Maria Goday on NPR insists that as religiously as we might regard the Friday Fish Fry we should not overlook the economic implications of this particular custom. For instance, in Fish on Friday Bryan Fagan wrote that the long held tradition of not eating meat on holy days created a vast market for fish which was difficult to satisfy and prompted oceanic exploration. And Lou Groen, an enterprising McDonald’s franchise owner (and a Catholic) invented the Filet-O-Fish because he was struggling to sell burgers on Friday. That was fifty years ago and this fried fish sandwich remains on the menu today. By the way this fishy entrée happens to be one of past President Trump’s take-out favorites, even though he insists on calling it The Fish Delight. And Donald Trump was born on a Friday for whatever value that particular fact might be worth.
Our favorite foods Sunday through Saturday