For as long as I can remember Fridays in Lent meant our Catholic school cafeteria would be invaded after school by the Boy Scouts troop affiliated with the parish, or the Knights of Columbus, or some service organization. Swarms of volunteers would man the stations, some cooking fish, some at the dessert table, others on drinks or the ticket table. The price of the dinner was $5 for fish and fries, a drink, and dessert. And the Catholic parish raised all the money for the school or church.
Enter COVID 2020, and the fish fry that characterized Catholic parishes for decades was hijacked by gourmet restaurants panicked about keeping their doors open. There was plenty of need to go around, and the beneficiaries of the gourmet fish fry were hospitality workers whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic.
As a kid, the fish fry on Friday was a big social event as well as a fundraiser. As an adult, those same rules applied when we worked it with our kids, though the price had changed and the options expanded, as the parishes got into “menus” and even drive-thru options.
Last year, the only option was drive-thru, and orders had to be placed sometimes days in advance. As a consumer, I must say I would rather have the fried fish and gourmet hand-cut fries with three sauces from GW Fins than the massly-fried-fish-fries-and-slaw in styrofoam that I can get half a mile from my house. The $9 price on the latter is half that of the gourmet version, which is packed in the resealable containers that will replenish my supply.
I wonder how the fancy frys will impact the local parish’s revenues from this decades-old tradition. Probably not much, because the clientele at each is as disparate as the menu options.
Just speaking for us, I am far more excited about Fridays in Lent than I have been in a very long time. Curiosity and good memories had me occasionally at the nearest parish if I passed one. I would drive-thru because there is a big community aspect to going to the Catholic parish fish fry, and we lost that community long ago.
But I will definitely be checking the link here for the number of restaurants that have Friday Fish Fry fever. Their menus are widely varied, as are the prices, and the arrangements for getting them. And please swing by one of the local parishes on the way home. It’s tradition, after all. And those parishes have been depending on the funds raised for decades.