By Mary Anna Violi |@Mary Anna Violi
Friday night dinners in our household consisted primarily of fish. Good practicing Roman Catholics my parents were, Fridays throughout Lent were peppered with hearty portions of dried cod, a’la` Calabria, with a generous portion of olive oil, onions, fresh lemons, a handful of fresh parsley, a hearty portion of potatoes, all covered with water. Mama used to explain that to cook baccala, the aforementioned cod dish, “First, you soak the cod for a week, and then you cook the cod for a week, and then you throw it out!”
She had a point. Dried cod smelled like a dead fish that had been floating on its side for an undetermined length of time. I incurred Daddy’s icy stare whenever I held my nose to take a bite of this Southern Italian “delicacy”. Baccala was, however, a most economical Lenten repast, for in those years, cod was cheap [before upper-middle-class folks decided fish was “hot” and meat was “not”]. Years later, I concocted a way of making baccala with fresh cod that tasted delicious and lacked the appalling bouquet of dried cod. My parents were proud of my culinary baccala achievement.
We also feasted upon filleted blue gills, courtesy of relatives who liked ice fishing; tuna fish and noodles; tuna casserole; shrimp cocktail; and my brother’s favorite: Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks. If we were lucky enough to be served fish sticks on a Lenten Friday, that also meant made homemade French fries and another relative’s coleslaw recipe, which I could have dispensed with. I enjoyed simply noshing on lemon-saturated fish sticks while chasing ketchup around my plate with chunky French fries.
I thought about those Lenten dinners of yore last Friday night as I prepared linguine with shrimp scampi for dinner. Admittedly, I abstain from meat on most Fridays beyond Lent. Fish and Fridays just go hand in hand in my Italian world.
Ciao for now.