Does your religion observe “Fish Friday?” Mine does. I was born into Catholicism and I am what one calls a ““Cradle Catholic.” I received five of the seven sacraments. I didn’t receive ordination but I had a brief illusion of becoming a nun in first grade. However, by second grade I changed my career from nun to teacher. Fortunately, I haven’t received the anointing of the sick because that sacrament is for the dying. God willing I’ll be able to put that off for a few more decades–three to be precise. But I used to avidly observe Fish Fridays aka no meat Fridays.
Growing up Catholic
Growing up Catholic meant we observed Fish Fridays. So, every Friday my parents piled us into the old green Chevrolet station wagon and we’d head out for fish and chips. Going out to dinner on no-meat Friday may not have aligned exactly with the Catholic virtue of sacrifice, but taking six or seven kids under the age of 10 out to eat had to be the ultimate sacrifice.) We went to the same restaurant every week. I don’t remember the name, but it was near the Morton Salt Company (which happens to now be historic).
The Fish Friday Restaurant
This was in the early 1960’s. The restaurant was a one-story red brick building with a red neon sign that blinked the restaurant’s name on and off. The inside was dark, smoky, and filled with long and small tables. Above each table hung a single light bulb, which made the lighting go from dark to dim.
It had an echo too from all the people chatting at one time. And the ceilings were the kind where you had to duck if you were too tall. I imagine the long tables got used the most on Fridays, because probably a lot of Catholics went out for Fish Friday just like us.
We sat at a long table. As our family grew so did the noise level at the table. I think the staff liked my dad and mom and so they tolerated our rambunctiousness. At other restaurants the staff did not. One time a manager came to our table to complain about us one too many times and my dad angrily marched his hungry children out of the restaurant. We’d already ordered too – so that place got stuck with a lot of unpaid for food.
I was at the age where I went happily wherever my parents told me to go. I’m sure my cheerfulness didn’t last long because my brothers loved to tease, punch me and make me cry. I can imagine there was a lot of scolding, spilling, pleading and seat shuffling during those dinners. No rest for the weary when you’re a parent.
The smell of deep-fried fish and greasy French fries hung heavily in the air. Placed neatly in the middle of the table was a metal napkin holder (the kind where you pulled the long napkin out of the center), smudged salt and pepper shakers, a bottle of catsup and a bottle of vinegar.
ONE drink and EAT WHAT YOU ORDER
We got to order exactly one glass of pop. That’s what it’s called in the Midwest, instead of soda. I say soda now that I’m a Californian, but it still, after decades, feels like I’m using the wrong word. My dad yelled at us if we asked for another pop (which someone always did). There were no free refills in those days. We couldn’t leave anything on our plate either, except maybe a little catsup and some salt, because my dad’s direction was clear: You eat what you order.”
I don’t know when “Fish Friday” fell off for me. Probably after I got divorced and stopped going to church.
However, to this day, I still “eat what I order,” especially when I go out to dinner, just in case my dad is checking up on me from heaven.
For some reading fun, check out this book: Growing up Catholic, The Millennium Edition, An Infinitely Funny Guide for the Faithful, the Fallen and Everyone In-Between.
I’ll see you next week and remember: Get Inspired ?. Leave me a comment below or on your fish or no fish Fridays or any other tradition you observe or no longer observe—Kathy