Lenten Lunch

I am trying these days to eat my principle meal at midday rather than in the evening.   In the evening I will have a light supper, maybe some salad and/or soup and then, after a while, have a solid workout. 

I wind up going to bed hungry that way, but that isn’t bad for Lent.

Today’s lunch featured catfish, which I found for $2.25/lb.  An egg wash and bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

Stir fried baby bok choy and green onions, both on sale.  A dash of soy sauce.

Good food doesn’t have to be expensive or hard to make.  From start to washing up less than an hour, during which I watched some CURLING!

Anyone can do this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. lucy says:

    Your lunch is looking really good, Father. We’re waiting to go to noon Mass at our local cathedral and are very hungry !

  2. Girgadis says:

    You’re such a gifted cook you can even make catfish look delicious. I’ll bet it tasted pretty good, too. At lunch today I felt a little like Barry Fitzgerald in “Going My Way” when he found out the turkey he was enjoying had been stolen. I picked up a nice Tuscan bean soup mix on sale last week. I told the hubby what time to expect lunch. I had the soup simmering nicely when something made me put on my specs and read the ingredients a little closer. Way down at the bottom, nearly the last ingredient, I saw “dehydrated chicken.” Gulp. Had to put it away for tomorrow and make do with a frozen pizza crust and some olive oil and garlic.

  3. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Your food looks delicious, Father! Lenten fare can be hearty fare! A friend of mine, who is Orthodox, has a lovely recipe, a vegan chili, with Boca meat (meatless, of course) and beans. After Divine Liturgy on a Sunday, his wife cooks a pot for fellowship, and it’s gone very quickly! It has very colourful beans in it, so it’s pretty to look at, too. Just have a quick look, and Bob’s your uncle, it’s gone!

  4. jrotond2 says:

    Eating at midday makes much more sense; you need more energy when working and being about as opposed to just a few hours before retiring to sleep. Even the fast laws imply the main meal as being as midday, and the two snacks at either end.

  5. Mike Morrow says:

    “…you can even make catfish look delicious.” ???

    That’s like saying “you can even make filet mignon look delicious.”

    Catfish is always excellent, *if* it is farm-raised and *fried in cornmeal*.

  6. Gabriella says:

    Going to bed hungry isn’t bad for Lent … and it isn’t bad for our health either :)

  7. Torpedo1 says:

    Oh… man that looks good Fr. Z. All I had for lunch was a frozen cheese ravioli thing, some lemonade and a Fiber One bar. But I’m taking my Mom out to dinner tonight so that’ll be fun. I suppose for lunch today I could’ve gone with Homemade egg salad, but I was craving tomato for some reason.

  8. markomalley says:

    Fr. Z, I cannot see how the above meal can be seen as penitential in any way, shape, or form.

    [I am delighted I helped you feel good about your own Lenten practices.  That comment must have been quite rewarding!  o{];¬)     ]

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    I cannot see how the above meal can be seen as penitential in any way, shape, or form.

    Oh, it’s quite penitential — in quantity if not in quality — in comparison with the usual spread for a principal meal at the Sabine Farm. And do you not see how severely penitential for Father Z even to contemplate going to bed hungry?

  10. Liz F says:

    Yes, we felt a little guilty on Ash Wednesday when our simple Potato Herb Soup and bread tasted so good. Maybe it was the hunger! Lent does have so many good things about it. Tonight I’m reinacting a local fish fry. The kids love it, but it costs too much. I told them I can duplicate it. We’ll see.

  11. markomalley: Lent, IMHO, is the more than the prescribed rules about fasting/abstinence at the
    designated times. Those are necessary and wonderful but I think (at least I chose to) go a step beyond
    and practice extra self-denials during Lent.

    For an established foodie like Father (and myself) limiting quantities of food, denying yourself your
    favorite foods, skipping a meal, as ways to unite your soul to the intention of the liturigical season is
    TOUGH. I don’t care what anyone says.

    For me to even look at Father’s photos (I skip a meal during Lent and today it was lunch) is penitential!

    Plus, you missed in a previous entry where Father talked about how, year-round, he only eats after he’s sat in ashes and
    rubbed gravel into his hair.

  12. Flambeaux says:

    Looks good, Father. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Flambeaux says:

    Cathy of Alex,

    Wasn’t part of Father’s penitential ritual to also drink only from puddles on the roadside?

  14. markomalley says:


    Lent, IMHO, is the more than the prescribed rules about fasting/abstinence at the designated times. Those are necessary and wonderful but I think (at least I chose to) go a step beyond and practice extra self-denials during Lent.

    Precisely. Which is why I don’t feast on crab legs on Fridays.

    An appropriate penance would be to cook the above meal and then give it to the poor. ;-)

  15. Choirmaster says:

    Instead of “Fr. Z’s Kitchen” I think it should be called:

    Kitchen Z

  16. An American Mother says:


    I think “Chez Z” would be even better.

    Think of the logo you could design!

  17. MAJ Tony says:

    Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter how good it tastes, or how plentiful your food is, if you eat the same thing often enough, it gets boring. I’ve had two long Lents in Iraq. Six weeks is a relative cake-walk, no matter how you stack it. Besides, I never saw anything in church laws that said food had to be bland during Lent. One of my favorite Lent meals was riceballs on Good Friday. Mom made them with some sort of cheese sauce.

    BTW, speaking of hidden ingredients, some of those ramen noodle packs have meat broth in them, even if they’re shrimp ramen. I’m not losing any sleep over what’s done. It wasn’t intended, and now I know.

  18. cnaphan says:

    A good cook cannot give up cooking tasty meals any more than a person who knows better can give up using proper grammar. It would be an unnatural contortion. Bad cooking helps no one. Good cooking is merely the harmonious usage of food – you can’t just give it up.

    Fish and bokchoy is low in cost and low in calories – it’s perfect Lenten fare.

    Some people seem to think that you shouldn’t enjoy Lenten food – hardly the case! It’s better to enjoy simpler food than to gain some perverse enjoyment from austerity itself, which seems to be the case with some people. Pick a simple penance and stick to it, I say.

  19. robtbrown says:

    markomalley and Cathy of Alex,

    Years ago, my confessor at Fontgombault advised against heroic penances because they provoke an emotional reaction against them. It is better, he said, to give up something small because small sacrifices are more interior.

  20. wanda says:

    But, the puddles are frozen. Hunks of ice, anyone? Then it’s off to the ash heap and that always painful rubbing of gravel through the hair.

    Thanks for the pictures, Father. Looks great.

  21. Hey folks: That was just some really cheap fish, in a frying pan, and some really cheap stir-fried vegetables, in a frying pan.

    The real problem here is that they looked good and, as you have guessed, were good. I even used salt and pepper on the fish! And the food had some… whaddya call it again… color?

    Had they been ugly and awful then I guess they would have been great! Even better, they could have been perfectly bland.

    There is a sort of person who is happy only when he is unhappy. He will with unhappy happiness make everyone else unhappy until no one likes anything and everyone will be equally happy in their misery.

    For some people eating wretched food, or none at all, can be more filled with the mortal sin of pride than simply eating a decent portion well-prepared.

    I am reminded of Luke 18. Oh God, aren’t I wonderful that I don’t eat anything good? I know, God, that your Church’s laws specify certain things for Lent, but notice how wonderful I am because I do soooo much morrrrre… er um… less… er um… more…. and then tell people what they do is wrong? Like that tax collector over there? SEE, God? After all, my choice for myself should be the standard for others too.

    Thank God I didn’t put an anti-Lenten chive on the plate at a rakish angle.

    Imagine the outrage!

    Don’t worry, I saved the chive for the poor.

  22. Desertfalcon says:

    Ooooo, yummy looking. I haven’t had catfish in some time. I learned to love it when stationed in the south. Never heard of the egg-white and bread crumbs method, however. Do you just buy the bread crumbs pre-made? It won’t fall apart in the pan?

  23. I had some bread-crumbs I had previously made. I just gave the fish a little brush with the egg to make them stick and put them into the pan at a medium heat. Then I went about my business with the veg.

  24. Rose in NE says:

    Looks good! Thanks for sharing your kitchen skills. We had a simple supper tonight–salmon patties and a green salad. The kids (teenagers) aren’t crazy about salmon patties, but choked them down and offered it up! Maybe next week we’ll give the catfish a try!

  25. Desertfalcon says:

    Thanks Father, a wonderful Lenten dish. I will give that method a try. A much more healthy alternative to batter frying, I’m sure.

  26. Re: meat broth

    “Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.”

    I agree that beef or chicken soup doesn’t have the right feel during Lent or on Friday. But if you’ve already got the food cooking before you discover this sort of “bottom of the label” broth or flavoring thing, or you start eating the green beans before you discover the little itty bit of flavor ham, you don’t really have to put it away or spit it out. The Church is very understanding about this stuff; often, more understanding than Her children are.

  27. cicada380 says:

    Creativity and simplicity, how wonderful!

  28. Luce says:

    Home cooked food and CURLING, ah, what simple gifts God offers.

  29. MargaretMN says:

    Ha, when I saw the topic of this post I guessed that within half a dozen posts, somebody would rip Father for eating too well. I was wrong, it was post #5.

    What I’d like to see is a Lenten recipe for Muskrat. The French Canadians in Michigan got a dispensation making it “fish” for the purposes of Lent way back when and they still eat it during lent there.

  30. Maltese says:

    That really looks great, Father! Myself, I am having Sushi tonight. There is a hole in the wall where I get it; the mom and pop who run it are from China and don’t speak English, but it is fantastic, cheap, and the people who run it wonderful. I almost feel guilty “fasting” on it, as it tastes better, to me, than a filet mignon, medium-rare (which I also enjoy.)

  31. markomalley says:

    robtbrown (et al)

    My apologies. Apparently I did not make adequate use of a (/sarc) tag or a ;-) emoticon in my initial post.

    Be assured that in that post my tongue was firmly planted in my cheek.

  32. markomalley: I’m sorry if I jumped on you. Well, ok, I did! Peace to you.

  33. lucy says:

    We had a lovely spaghetti alfredo……I just ate less, but it was yummy !!

  34. New Sister says:

    I would prefer you buy trout, Father. You deserve it!

  35. New Sister: I looked for trout! Alas, there wasn’t any. But when I saw the price on the catfish… I may have passed on the trout anyway. Couldn’t beat it.

  36. robtbrown says:

    I abstain on Friday all year but add Wednesday during Lent. Not a big deal because I love seafood and fish (but catfish no longer). Sam’s has Parmesan Encrusted Tilapia and breaded Cod or Flounder that is very good. Also crab cakes with a nice aioli sauce.

    A few years ago I discovered how easy it is to make Blackened Tilapia. Then there’s boiled shrimp, salad shrimp in frozen sweet and sour veggies. Aldi (the Albrecht Bros are, I am told, very Catholic) will have Lemon Pepper Encrusted Tilapia next week and always has frozen coconut shrimp with a chutney sauce.

    Bring on the abstinence!

  37. Dr. Eric says:

    Anything that tastes “fishy” makes me gag, so yes, Lobster Thermidor or crab legs would actually be a penance for me. From what I hear, catfish is one of the worst offenders (I trust Fr. Z could make something good out of it) for the fishy muddy taste- it’s not like it was a yellow fin tuna steak- even I can eat those if marinated and grilled to well done.

    For Lent and the Ember days I usually stick to toast, fruit, waffles, veggie soup and tea.

    By the way, those veggies looked good, Father. Was it only the bok choy (bai cai), onions, and soy sauce, or did you use some oil and other ingredients?

  38. robtbrown says:

    Also: Sam’s sells Michelangelo’s Shrimp Scampi in pasta. Frozen, put it in the microwave for 15 minutes . . . e buon appetito.

  39. Dr. Eric: I used about a tablespoon of olive oil, but yes… only baby bok choy and a few green onions, all chopped up. Once I had them going in the hot pan, I added just a splash of soy sauce. Nothing elaborate and super fast.

    BTW… the catfish wasn’t “fishy” at all. It was obviously fish, but not overly fishy fish.

  40. laurazim says:

    If memory serves, there are times when catfish has that bottom-feeder-fishy taste to it, but at other times, it can be quite flavorful in a pleasant way. The trouble is–you never know what you’re going to get!

    I like the egg white/bread crumb idea. I’d be tempted to squirt a lemon wedge or two over it as well…….

  41. Dr. Eric says:

    Even if it’s only slightly fishy it’s too much for me. I can’t eat frogs legs, scallops, clams, lobster, fresh or ocean fish, shrimp, prawns-even sea weeds- they all make me gag.

    I can only eat shark and yellow fin tuna that have been marinated and grilled to death to where it falls apart, crawfish etouffee, and alligator.

    I’ve always wanted to ask a very Catholic chef about this- so Fr. Z, have you heard about this? Have you heard of anyone changing their “tastes?”

  42. Maltese says:

    *I abstain on Friday all year but add Wednesday during Lent.*

    Good man. Until 1966 (a dreadful year) all Catholics were bound to abstain from meat on Fridays; why isn’t it so now?

  43. Ellen says:

    I’m not much of a meat eater, so eating fish during Lent really isn’t a hardship, but I do miss my bacon and cheeseburgers. On Easter Sunday, I really crave a bacon cheeseburger. Dipped in chocolate.

  44. MrsHall says:

    Hmm… catfish is my fave. If I found it for $2.25/lb. we would need to buy another freezer. We’d be set for Fridays for a year.
    It is a difficult balance to be penitent without looking so. Like Jesus said, when you fast, don’t go about with a gloomy face. That said, fast and abstinence are two different things after all… The bread I make for fasting is so good that the day after Ash Wednesday we’re all a little sorry that the bread is gone… As you said, Father, “For some people eating wretched food, or none at all, can be more filled with the mortal sin of pride than simply eating a decent portion well-prepared.”

  45. Girgadis says:

    Dr. Eric

    Sometime when I was in my 20’s, I developed the same reaction to raw fruits and vegetables. As it wasn’t an anaphylactic reaction, I never bothered a doctor with it. I would get diaphoretic and need every ounce of willpower not to get ill in public, but nothing life-threatening. I can eat some of the offenders if they’re overripe, overcooked and/or drowned in salt or something acidic, but it is a curious thing, isn’t it?

  46. maynardus says:

    Catfish is one of the things that makes Lent, and year-round Friday abstinence, tolerable!

  47. Dove says:

    By any standards, Fr. Z’s catfish main meal is very meagre. Perhaps even more pentitential because it tasted good. He would probably have enjoyed having a second piece. Self-denial is a very personal thing. It seems to me that Fr. Z is posting this meal to show us how easy it is to cook it, not to tout his self-denial.
    I grew up with meatless Fridays, lots of salmon loaf, macaroni and cheese, fish and chips. Lobster, crab and shrimp were not available. However, it was understood that if it was available we could eat it, even if it was actually better than our ordinary meat-ful meals.
    I grew up in Canada and I remember my mother saying that beaver were classified as fish since they lived in the water, not that beaver were an option for us. I recently read in a book called “Fast and Feast” that in mediaeval times the beaver’s tail, since is has scales, was classified as fish, but not the rest of the beaver. Goose also was considered fish since the people did not see where the goose’s eggs were laid and thought that the young were born in the water and so they were fish too. There’s lots of lore about the very legalistic way that fasting was observed when there were frequent meatless ember days and during lent Wednesday and Saturdays were also meatless.

  48. Federico says:

    I love fish, but catfish?

    I only know of one passable recipe for catfish:
    Wash catfish fillets under water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Soak a cedar board for 24 hours in cold water. Heat oven to 350F. Place breaded catfish fillets on board and bake uncovered for an hours.

    Take it out of the oven, throw away the fish and serve the board with a crisp white wine.

  49. Federico says:

    Until 1966 (a dreadful year) all Catholics were bound to abstain from meat on Fridays; why isn’t it so now?

    Maltese: they still are (canon 1251). However, in many places the conferences permit substitution of abstinence with another penance in accord with canon 1253. Canon 1253 has its roots in Penetimini VI. Fridays remain penitential days all year.

  50. Federico: Take it out of the oven, throw away the fish and serve the board with a crisp white wine.


    Good one.

    Actually, that catfish was pretty good… and it was proportioned to my budget.

    But it sure isn’t colatura!

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