I wasn’t always a vegetarian.
My dietary reinvention developed over many years of making choices – chicken over red meat, then fish instead of chicken or red meat, then choosing veggies first. I like vegetables! You put any vegetable on top of a bed of lettuce or a plate of pasta or in a bowl with quinoa — I am happy! I chose salads, any kind of salads. There weren’t many vegetarian options early in my culinary transition, so sometimes I would just pick out the meat from whatever I ordered or selected several items from the “sides” – vegetables, of course.
In a previous job, one of my responsibilities was to solicit lunch sponsors for our volunteers. They volunteered all day on a project, and we provided the group with a lunch. Aware that some had dietary choices or that they would be scheduled to work on a Friday during the Lenten season, a vegetarian option was requested of our donors. It was during those busy activities that I, usually the last one to the serving table, ended up with the lone alternative lunch. It was, also, during those days that I learned a few things:
- that I should get to the table sooner,
- that I should be thankful for the break and the donors who provided the food, and
- that a portabella mushroom really does taste like meat — and makes a great “burger”!
My meatless journey began.
Meal planning and grocery shopping for a household that included a meat-and-potatoes, what-are-vegetables, I’m-too-old-to-change husband . . . well, I was up for the challenge. I was determined to create meatless meals and get more veggies in our diet. I tried meat “substitutes” and frozen products of “chick’n” and veggie sausage or hot dogs when preparing familiar dishes he requested. Some worked; some did not. So, I just made his favorites and extra sides of veggies for me. Did you know that brownies and other sweets can be made with spinach or avocado or zucchini or . . . even . . . yes, K.A.L.E.? Shhh! He still thinks they are the old-fashion chocolate favorite treats.
So, why the “Lenten Fridays” title?
The 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is a time of moderation, fasting, and “giving up” something – like, meat on Fridays – as an action of sacrifice and repentance. Being the curious vegetarian that I am, I posed this question to my social media followers, my Catholic friends, and the chaplain at my office: If Fridays are to be “meatless,” why is FISH offered everywhere? Churches, restaurants, fire stations – Lenten Fridays become Fish Fridays for everyone. But . . . FISH IS MEAT!
According to the dictionary, meat is the flesh of animals.*
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, abstinence laws say meat is considered something that comes only from animals that live on land, like chicken, cows, sheep or pigs. Fish are considered a different category of animal. The often-told story about a long-ago pope promoting fish to prop up the fishing industry is just urban legend. Eating fish on Fridays isn’t required, but has rather become somewhat of a tradition in many Catholic households. In fact, so many people eat fish on Lenten Fridays that in 1959, a Cincinnati McDonald’s owner decided to introduce the Filet-o-Fish after suffering big losses on Fridays.*
Well, I wasn’t trying to be argumentative or to be disrespectful of the Catholic tradition or other religion cultures. This developing vegetarian was just curious. Please feel free to comment below and share with me your favorite “Lenten Fridays” meals.
Meatless Recipes – Want to try some alternatives for Fish Fridays?
Here are a few I have tried and plan to add to my regular rotation of favorite recipes:
“Beef” Stew: They never missed the beef. Remember the portabella mushroom discovery? I used smoked paprika, too. I am addicted to smoked paprika!
Creamy Lemon Tagliatelle by Hello Fresh: Hubby wanted “regular” pasta. I compromised with rigatoni for both of us. I fell in love with the tarragon!
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Another recipe using smoked paprika – that flavor!!
Lenten Fridays may be traditionally Fish Fridays, but I encourage you to try these and other meatless meals. Lenten season is a time for change, too. Maybe add a new vegetarian dish each week? And, after the 40-day period, a regular meatless recipe in your weekly meal rotation? Check out my Pinterest page for more ideas. Hiding veggies in brownies is not required!