Platter of Meat | ©Tom Palladio ImagesGrowing up in the U-S-of-A and raised Catholic meant meat of any kind on Fridays was a no-no. We had to bite the bullet and suppress our urge for the standard Midwestern meat-and-potatoes fare that we normally ate the other six days of the week.

Instead, the parents in our parish would man the deep fryers for a good ‘ol fish fry, and paper plate the once-frozen tiles of white fish transformed into something edible, add some spaghetti and cole slaw and send you on your way, less the six bits ($.75). All the proceeds, after paying off the delivery truck for the fish AND the beer — Hey, we’re talking Catholics in the 50s — went right back into the parish to support the grade school and its baseball, basketball and soccer teams.

Ah, fish on Fridays. Such memories. It seems as if it was only yesterday. OMG. It was!

Lori and a plate of red trout | © Tom Palladio ImagesA new friend of mine, Lore, along with an old friend of mine, Lucia, invited me over for a casual dinner last night. On the menu, FISH.

I guess there’s really no escaping the no-meat-on-Friday ritual, even if it is now partially extinct in the eyes of the Church, except on Ash Wednesday — the start of Lent — all the Fridays during the Lenten season, and Good Friday, just before Easter.

But, some religious traditions just die slowly, and Bella Italia is no exception. Lot’s of people still use the old Church tradition of year-round “meatless Fridays” simply as an excuse so they can continue eating seafood on Fridays. And my old friend, and the new one — the Double-Ls — still do their “fish fryin'” on Fridays.

Cooked red trout | ©Tom Palladio ImagesAnd, what a “fish fry” it was. All fresh, no frozen gills-of-the-sea, selected earlier in the day at one of the fish markets around town.

When I asked what some of the dishes she prepared were called, Lore, our hostess for the evening, simply replied, “Modo mio” — My way. Okay. You’re the boss.

What a delightful and plentiful evening it was.

We opened up with gamberi (shrimp) in lemon and olive oil, followed by a to-die-for zuppa di pesce (fish soup). Next came fresh-water trota rosso (red trout) accompanied by baby greens and sliced boiled potatoes with parsley.

Prosecco and frittelle | ©Tom Palladio ImagesThe dinner continued with oranges the size of grapefruit, and ended with glasses of Prosecco and several plates of frittelle — little deep-fried sweets that occupy most of the shelves in the glass cases of Italian pasty shops during Carnivale (Carnival), the party-til-you-drop period that’s several weeks long and concludes 40 days out from Easter.

These little bites of heaven remain on sale, or prepared in homes around the country, until Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday) or Mardi Gras, the day just before Ash Wednesday, and then they just vanish.

On my way out the door, Lore handed me a CARE package of some of the remaining fritelle, reminding me that I have to finish them off by sundown of Fat Tuesday.

Fat chance. They’ll be devoured before sundown tonight!

©The Palladian Traveler

©Tom Palladio Images

TPT Borsalino on Cobblestone | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him in and out of 49 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway somewhere in the Veneto. You can also follow his dispatches from the cobblestone at TravelingBoy.com and ItalianNotebook.com.

5 comments

  1. You bring back great memories of my Italian/American Catholic in the 50’s upbringing! We always had fish on Friday regardless. And I remember having to fast on Good Friday. My Italian grandmother cooked the best food and sadly never wrote a single recipe on paper, it was all in her head.
    It looks like you had a great time with the two L’s and such a feast!

  2. Despite forcing Catholicism underground in the 1500’s, the Anglican church continued the no meat on friday rule. Even in today’s very secular society, Friday is still the busiest night for the Fish and Chip shops – perhaps that’s why it’s called Fry-Day😉

    1. Martin – That would be nice, FRIday because some of us FRY up the fish that day out of the week. Here’s the real skinny behind Friday: It comes from the Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frigg”, a result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frige with the Roman goddess Venus, with whom the day is associated in many different cultures — Friday in Italian is Venerdi. The same holds for Frīatag in Old High German, Freitag in Modern German and Vrijdag in Dutch.

      1. Hi Tom – yes I believe all our days of the week come from the old gods – Woden – Wednesday, Thor – Thursday are obvious examples🙂

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