Give me back that Filet O’Fish…give me that fish!

So, whilst I work towards catching up on my 52 Weeks to a Free Play Life, my writer-brain is enjoying being active again and is faithfully providing me thoughts that I hope are blog-worthy.

Today marked the first day of the pre-Easter, Lenten season in the Catholic tradition, a tradition that I grew up in and spent the better almost-two-thirds of my life deeply immersed in.  Most of my friends from school would probably be stunned out of their minds if I were forward-enough on Facebook to “come out” as no longer a Catholic, because for several years, I was the girl who wanted to be a cloistered nun, and who–even after changing her mind about that misperceived vocational calling–knew trivia about the faith and catechism like the back of my hand.  I should have been on Jeopardy! Vatican Tournament.

I won’t get into the myriad of reasons why I left, at least not this early in this blog’s life.  My point with this post is about the things that make us who we are.  The path I’m studying right now is helping me to bring more mindfulness and attention to every aspect of my life.  Among all the positive effects I’m realizing, this has also helped me be more aware of various traits and behaviors that I have inherited from my parents, teachers, ancestral roots, and other sources I have ties to.  One of these manifests each Lent as if on-cue: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (and sometimes the Fridays in-between), I. CRAVE. FISH.

Superficially, it’s entirely irrational.  A convention that was originally a sacrifice (eating the meal of a humble fisherman rather than the type of meat a king would indulge in) was always fairly unpleasant for me as I disliked seafood as a child, and given that fish/crab/lobster is generally pricier than beef/pork/chicken these days—effectively trading places with a king’s meal of old—it wasn’t so much of a sacrifice anymore (at least if you *liked* seafood).  These days, our family cuts down on all our meat (including fish) on a regular basis, cooking less at a time, and supporting humane practices.   Meatless Mondays have become a way to experiment, and by and large, my carnivorous Alpha rarely misses the meat if my meal is a success.  (He does, however, flat out refuse tofu and fake-meat products.)

Starting out, it did sometimes feel like an obligation that, if for some reason I forgot I was omitting meat products from my diet that day, I needed to “make it up” another day in the way that forgetfulness of Lenten fish-Fridays could be excused.  (This has actually been a recurring theme in this new practice of mine and will probably be a post unto itself one of these days.)  Alpha’s stint in the hospital and several-week recovery at home took such a toll on my energy level and commitment to Meatless Monday, that I pretty well got over any sense of guilt over the frozen pepperoni pizza I popped in the oven for dinner or the chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s we picked up after one of his followup appointments.  For right then, at least, eating something–hell, anything at all–was more important than committing energy I didn’t have toward coming up with something new he felt up to eating and I felt like cooking.

He’s three weeks out from surgery now and we are pretty well back in our groove…this week’s Meatless Monday dish was more than a frozen pizza or PB&Js: I had stumbled across a recipe for Linguine with Lemon, Feta, and Basil.  Major success!  Suffice to say, I have gotten back to viewing my Meatless Mondays as a chance to explore rather than sacrifice.

Then came today with all its chatter on Facebook about giving things up for Lent and having fish today and Friday, etc.  I shrugged it off as I have for years, got some of my work done, and took the Pup out for storytime.  I set about making her some lunch when we got home, and as I was asking myself what I wanted to eat, this voice from deep within me suggested fish.

What the heck? The only time I have fish for lunch is if we have leftovers, or there is nothing else that sounds good and we have a few fish sticks in the freezer or a can of tuna in the pantry.  Why, with plenty of other things to eat, would I suddenly crave fish?!

And then I put 2 and 2 together.  It was Ash Wednesday…a Holy Day of Obligation.  Years—decades—of practicing Catholicism, of eating fish during Lent, are still very much a part of who I am, deeply ingrained in me from my mother, her father, and his Catholic-Irish parents before me, as well as all the years of private, parochial school and cafeteria meals, Fish-Frys, and nights out at Red Lobster.  The part of me that ran from the Church bucked against the idea for a moment that even now I would fall prey to this tradition that seemed so nonsensical to me for years.

I could have disregarded this almost primal urge and had some meaty leftovers from the fridge.  Afterall, I’m not Catholic–what should I care that it’s Ash Wednesday anymore than I care about Superbowl Sunday?  Then I realized that I don’t because I needn’t; but the people who have influenced me did, and in accepting that part of me that feels compelled to eat fish along with them, I am keeping a part of them close, reaching out to friends and family I’m apart from, as well as ancestors I have never met and teachers I’ve lost touch with.

They are all in me, a part of me.  What good would it do me to reject that?  It’s a much happier feeling to embrace it and feel connected.  So what else could I do, but make tuna salad for sandwiches, just like my mother always did.  Even Alpha begged me to make enough to share with him.

On a side note, the book I am reading right now, The Painted Table, is also about this same topic, though along a different vein.  What aspects of your parents or others who have played a formative role in your life do you recognize in yourself? 

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~ by MamaWolf on February 22, 2012.

One Response to “Give me back that Filet O’Fish…give me that fish!”

  1. The title of your post has been ringing in my head all day. Maybe soon, the song can be added to the hymn book.

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