(I apologize in advance for all the puns I may slip in. The image below is a yellowfin tuna courtesy of the public domain.)
Ah, the joys of defending my Faith....
Recently I have heard a very...ummm....interesting explanation for the Catholic tradition of eating fish on Friday from a non-Catholic relative of mine.
Supposedly there was a pope that noticed that the fishing industry was in decline. So in order to bring it up again the pope (no idea which one) mandated, without any religious reason whatsoever, that the people should eat fish on Friday.
Now, it's pretty obvious to any educated Catholic that this is a myth, on many different levels. Even secular scholars agree on that. Like all myths though, this one has as some grains of truth. The fishing industry in medieval times was looked on favorably by the Church because of the fasting and abstinence laws of the time. Medieval fasting and abstinence laws required 3 days of abstinence instead of just one. Sure, fish was not the only food that would have satisfied the requirements, but it was the most popular. Therefore, consumer demand forced the growth of the fishing industry. (On a side note, consumer demand struck again in the 20th century, forcing fast food chains to create a fish sandwich option. Never underestimate the power of your dollars).
While there was no proof that a Roman pontiff made dealings with fishers of fish, there is a king who bargained with the fishermen. King Henry VIII of England, to be exact. To make a long story short, after the break with Rome, fish was considered a Catholic dish (because of the three days of fasting and abstinence). Therefore fishing declined and the king was forced to do something about it otherwise he would to had to deal with large numbers of unemployed fishermen. Never a good thing.
(Note: Most of the story behind the myth was paraphrased from an NPR article: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/04/05/150061991/lust-lies-and-empire-the-fishy-tale-behind-eating-fish-on-friday)
With that myth safely blown out of water, here are multiple different traditional and religious reasons why this practice was put into place:
1. Our Lord died on a Friday. Therefore, as a sacrifice, Catholics observe full abstinence (i.e. no meat at all). This is true even in the early days of the Church.
2. Fish are a cold-blooded species, so they are not considered a flesh meat.
There are various reasons why flesh meat is to be avoided, most having to do with the abolishment of animal sacrifice by early Church fathers.
3. There is heavy symbolism of fish in both the Old and New Testament. The creation of fish was on the fifth day, fish eyes were symbols of God's watchful Eye, fish as symbols for Baptism and Our Lord, as well as countless stories and miracles surrounding fish provide countless traditional reasons why this practice is just.
(Note: These last few paragraphs are paraphrased from the following website: https://www.catholicvote.org/five-reasons-we-should-always-eat-fish-on-fridays/ as well as some input from the NPR article.)
One final one from me:
4. If it's good enough for Our Lord and His Apostles, it's good enough for us!
Speaking of which, I'll get off my soap box and open up my secret recipes files....
A Simple Tuna Casserole
This is a great recipe for a quick and easy Friday meal and one of my favorites. 4 large servings.
1 lb pasta (macaroni, rotelle, or rigatoni are best)
1 15oz can of Campbell's Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
1/4 cup milk
1 20 oz can of Starkist tuna in water, drained.
Frozen Vegetables (My favorites are corn, celery, green pepper, onion and carrots.)
1. Make pasta as directed. Preheat oven to 365 degrees
2. While draining pasta, combine soup and milk in the pasta pot. Add pasta back into pot. Mix well.
3. Add tuna and vegetables. Mix well.
4. Combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, enough to fill a small bowl. Spread enough crumb mixture to cover the bottom of a large casserole dish. Fill the casserole dish with the tuna mixture and top with remaining crumb mixture.
5. Place in oven for 30-60 minutes until it bubbles and the bread coating on top is somewhat crispy. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
Hope you guys enjoy the New Year!