Fish fries, the communal celebration of the abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, have gained great popularity in St. Louis. Even though this religious tradition is associated with Roman Catholics, several churches of other Christian denominations throughout St. Louis run fish fries.
No matter whether it is a Mexican, African-American or Serbian Orthodox church, all of them have the common goal: supporting the call for abstaining from meats, raising funds for parishes and promoting their communities’ cultures.
The tradition of eating fish on Fridays became a “hot” online topic with maps of the best fish fries venues in the city, and Facebook and Twitter discussion. Offline and online popularity of this religious related tradition has given fish fries the status of a popular culture phenomenon.
How did fish get into the spotlight of celebrating Lent?
“Fish was important to the early Christians, as it was their main source of protein, not to mention most of the disciples’ livelihood or trade as fishermen,” said Erin Schmidt, a liturgy coordinator at Saint Louis University Campus ministry.
ST. LOUIS – Jordan Slavik and Angela Wise, the Knights of Columbus Saint Louis University chapter volunteers, serve freshly fried catfish. The Knights usually serve for lunch and dinner on Fridays during Lent. On busy days they sell over 250 meals and the funds go to charitable organizations including Cardinal Glennon Hospital, pregnant parenting organizations, and various disability awareness projects. (SLU/Ivana Cvetkovic)
Jordan Slavik, the Grand Knight of Saint Louis University chapter, explained that in more recent history “the tradition of the Lenten fish fries is geared towards supporting and encouraging spiritual and physical fasting.”
“In this way, fish fries have become a way of remembering Christ’s sacrifice and giving up a little something ourselves, while still coming together to celebrate a meal with one another,” Slavik said. “Sharing a meal is also a way to raise charitable funds for those in most need.”
The Knights of Columbus SLU chapter sells over 250 meals on busy Fridays raising weekly around $1,500 for charity.
Fish fries and cultural diversity
The Holy Trinity Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in St. Louis is one of the non-Catholic denomination churches that started hosting fish fries four years ago. Organizing fish fries represents the act of “Americanization” of Lent activities since the fish fry tradition does not exist in Orthodox Christianity.
ST. LOUIS – Rev. Ljubomir Krstic, a priest of the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, makes crepes the way they are traditionally made in Serbia. Helping during the fish fry event made him leave his vestment at home and spend the Friday afternoon in more comfortable clothing. (SLU/Ivana Cvetkovic)
“One of the reasons that the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church organizes fish fries is to become a part of community so that our neighbors get to know Serbian people and culture,” said Rev. Ljubomir Krstic. “Our forefathers came to this country looking for better ways of life and generations of our parishioners who were born in the U.S. consider themselves as Serbian-Americans. Today we are all about being good neighbors and good stewards to this country and the city in which we dwell in.”
In 2014 the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church broke the record by serving 372 meals in a week. The church will use the raised funds to replace the church building roof.
Interesting facts: Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, 1910 Serbian Drive, St. Louis
- Serbian ethnic food: Bean soup (pasulj), sour cabbage (podvarak) and fresh crepes made on the spot and filled with Nutella or strawberry jam
- Food is served in real plates alongside real silverware
- Krstic will give tours of the church, explaining the differences between Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity
Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, 1115 South Florissant Road, St. Louis
- Mexican style fish fry: cactus salad, fish and potato tacos and ceviche de jureland
- Eileen Wolfington, better known as “La Morena,” teaches children Mexican folk dances
- Live music performed on keyboard and hand drums
ST. LOUIS – Santiago Solorio and Patricia Hernandez, volunteers at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, have brought their Mexican heritage into fish fries. Hernandez makes taco fillings while Solorio prepares fresh tacos. (SLU/Ivana Cvetkovic)
ST. LOUIS – Eileen Wolfington “La Morena” teaches children Mexican folk dancing during fish fries at Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church. In addition to having Mexican style food, visiting children have the opportunity to dance and wear Mexican style costumes, such as ponchos and sombreros. (SLU/Ivana Cvetkovic)
St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Catholic Church, 1118 North Grand Blvd, St. Louis
- Ethnic food: deep fried catfish or tilapia, and soul food specialties on last Lent Friday
- Parishioners and visitors may place orders by fax or phone
- Fish Fry lottery: the lucky winners may end up with a brand new flat screen TV, gas card or a booze basket
ST. LOUIS – Ozzie Foster and chef Paul Townsend each year volunteer preparing food at the St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Catholic Church. Food is served from 11 a.m. to the 6 p.m. and takes many hands to prepare and pack all fish fry orders. On the last Lenten Friday serving hours are extended to 7 p.m. and on that day volunteers will serve soul food. (SLU/Ivana Cvetkovic)
The Knights of Columbus – SLU campus
- $6 fish meal combo includes catfish/pollock fillets in beer butter, fries and drink
- The only place where Coca-Cola is sold on SLU campus
- Students who are members of the Knights of Columbus prepare food on campus