March 30, 2007 by Marj Hatzell
Growing up we had fish Friday. Every single Friday, I kid you not. My parents were kinda old school Catholics (still are!) and even though they were involved in the Charismatic Movement in the church (which at the time was considered very modern thinking!) they still held onto many of the parts of Catholicism from pre-Vatican II. Since my father was a convert (his parents were sort-of practicing Episcopalians and my Nana was raised Mennonite) he took things very seriously. That included Friday meal selections.
Every Friday, all year long, my parents abstain from meat. Even during non-Lenten times they insist that no meat will touch their lips on a Friday. They would shriek in horror if they found out we had something from the cafeteria at lunch that might possibly be described as meat (although, school food then was Grade D but edible and the meat looked like plastic). To this day they have fish on Fridays.
A typical fish Friday meal consisted of tuna casserole, Mrs. Paul’s crunchy fish sticks or (every once in a while) frozen flounder fillets. Not the most appetizing stuff, y’all. If we were outhouse lucky, and my mom had no fish, then we ate grilled cheese and tomato soup or pizza. I remember occasionally eating pancakes or eggs on Fish Friday but that was very rare. We almost began to expect tuna casserole every week.
Once we grew up and moved out of the house my parents began splurging on fish. They would either go out to one of their favorite diner/eateries and have THE SAME THING EVERY WEEK or would buy some fresh or frozen fish at the market. For people who have LITERALLY eaten the same thing on the same day every week of their lives together this is a big deal. I mean, once in a while they would get all crazy with their bad selves and have a frozen breaded veal patty on a Sunday instead of the required roast and potatoes (and canned peas) but we are talking VERY seldom, folks. I am telling you now! If my mother eats out for breakfast, it is always, ALWAYS, a cheese omelet, side of bacon and a glass of milk. If my mother eats out at lunch it is grilled cheese with a tomato on it. If my parents go out to dinner (which they now do most Fridays, or did for years) they order fried, breaded flounder with stewed tomatoes and mac and cheese. If they are feeling really wild and rebellious they order crab cakes. On non-Fridays (rare) Mom orders surf-n-turf (a very lame steak and a crab cake) and dad orders pork chops or steak. Such epicureans.
I kid you not. This is the truth. We grew up on one-pot meals with potatoes every night. There was always bread on the table (bread is filling!) and we ate the same thing every week. Feeding a family of nine (plus the random foster babies we would have) is expensive and I know my mother did the best she could on one salary. She did not return to work until half of us were teens or beyond. The problem is that she still cooks this way. The only one living at home is my leech brother. Thirty years old and still living at home, mom does his laundry. Do NOT get me started on that topic!
I do observe Fridays in Lent. I fast and do not eat meat. Tonight I will no doubt be super-lame and eat pizza or make mac and cheese, just because it is frozen and I can make it in five minutes. I just cannot bring myself to eat fish on Fridays. Traumatic childhood events dictate that. Even with homemade tartar sauce and ketchup Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks taste like sand and cardboard.
Maybe I will make some tuna casserole. Or not, since no one else eats it. But, just for fun, here is our family recipe, with some Mj special touches thrown in:
- One can of tuna, drained (we prefer White Albacore in Water!)
- One can of cream of celery soup
- one cup of milk
- One 8 oz package of cooked egg noodles, we use no-yolks.
Break tuna up with a fork, mix with can of soup and milk. Stir well. Add hot noodles. Bake in 350 degree over for twenty to thirty minutes, or until bubbly and begins to turn brown.
For fun: Add shredded cheese in the mix before adding noodles. Sprinkle Parmesan and bread crumbs on top to make a nice crusty and crunchy casserole top. We have also sauteed onions and celery (chopped small) in butter or olive oil and added that to the mix as well. We’ve also steamed veggies or nuked frozen ones (peas and broccoli work OK, skip anything too watery or soggy. ) and thrown those in to make a one-dish meal.