Lent, Alligators and You – Revisited

Once again, someone wrote to ask me if it is okay to eat alligator on Friday during Lent.

Is this a put on? Is this a joke?

Of course it’s okay to eat alligator! And crocodile, if you have some.

A couple years ago I posted this crystal clear answer, which I thought would have resolved this question once and for all.

Cliff Notes Version: The answer is “yes”.  You may eat alligator during Lent.

QUAERITUR: Abstinentia de carne lacertina aut crocodrillina

Ex lectoris e-pistulis extractum:

Reverendo patro Ioanni Zuhlsdorfo discipulus C. salutem et commemorationem in precibus suis. Gratias meas, sivis, ob opum tuam tibi agere volo. [Acceptae.] Mihi, catholico iuveni et discipulo in collegio liberalum artis et liberalum (aut impudicarum) mentum, scripturae tuae magnam auxilium fuerunt. Mox Ludovicianam meabo. Quaeritur: Sineturne corpus alligatoris feria VI in Quadregesima sine violando abstinentiam Quadragesimae edere?

My perfectly clear response follows:

Ossificatus manualista impoenitens respondeo de paginis Compendii Theologiae Moralis (Sabetti-Barrett) n. 331, :


Nomine carnis veniunt omnia animalia in terra viventia ac respirantia, ut communiter admittunt theologi ex regula tradita a S. Thoma vel, ut S. Alphonsus innuit, n. 1011, animalia quae sanguinem habent calidum; vel illud quod consuetudo regionis ut carnem habet; vel, si nec consuetudo praesto sit, dubium solvi potest considerando mentem Ecclesiae in sanciendo delectu ciborum, ut comprimendae ac minuendae carnis concupiscentiae per salutarem abstinetiam consuleret; examinetur, an huiusmodi animal simile sit aut dissimile iis quorum esus interdictus est et an illius carnes humano corpori validius nutriendo et roborando idoneae dignoscantur; et si ita appareat, ista caro inter vetitas est ponenda. Benedict XIV., De syn. dioec., lib.11, c. 5, n. 12. Haec quatuor multum deservient omni dubitationi solvendae.

Crocodrilli et lacertae inter reptilia sunt et amphibia.

Edi ergo possunt feriis sextis et tempore Quadragesimae.

Omnibus tamen diebus ab eis edimur.

So, there you have it.

You can eat alligator and crocodile on Fridays of Lent.


I sought and obtained more information about the claim made in the comments, below, about permission to eat muskrat in the Archdiocese of Detroit.  Here is the edited version, from my Detroit source:

Ah yes, the famous muskrat indult. At the behest of ___, I actually did some digging, and could find no evidence that permission for muskrat had ever been given either by the bishop of Detroit, the Archbishop of Cincinnati (our former metropolitan) or Baltimore, or Quebec. I suggested that someone be sent over to pore through the files of Propaganda  (and offered to do it myself, if the archdiocese would fund the trip). I did, however, find an article in the Michigan Catholic from the mid 1940’s, wherein a priest spoke of doing his own investigation back then. He also failed to find any indult, but noted that the meals had been served on Fridays in Lent as long as the oldest parishioners in those parishes could recall. I said to ____ in my memo that, if it was an immemorial custom in 1946, it was certainly immemorial now.

I’ve never tasted muskrat, but have been told that it has the taste of a dirty dishrag and the consistency of very old, thick asparagus.

So, there you have it, again.

Immemorial custom.  Chow down.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Gratias ago tibi pater. Litturae sententiaeque difficilior scribere non possum. Hoc forte stultum videtur. :( Beatissima Quadragesima tibi.

  2. incredulous says:

    You’re making fun of your Everglades constituency. LOL.

    Greetings from St. Bonaventure on the murky gator infested waters of the Glades. If you are in the area for Lent, I’m sure the K of C can serve freshly caught gator at their Friday fish fry. Come on down, y’all.

  3. Scott W. says:

    Tangentially related if you don’t mind: every now and then I see someone get agitated against “luxury” seafood like lobster or sushi–that this is accordance with the letter of the law of Lenten discipline, but violates the spirit. I’ve heard this countered that the abstaining from meat (carne) is done in a manner of speaking in solidarity with Our Lord being crucified in carne and really isn’t about poverty or what not. What say you?

  4. mike cliffson says:


  5. Scott W. says: What say you?

    I say this is about whether or not we may eat alligator on Fridays of Lent, not whether we ought to eat alligator on Fridays of Lent.

  6. VexillaRegis says:

    How What does alligator taste like? Not like muddy waters, I hope! The most exotic thing I have ever eaten was whale blubber. Quite tasty actually. Whales are, however, warm blooded, and thus not allowed for catholics on fasting days.

  7. VexillaRegis says:

    Sorry, that How should not be there.

  8. incredulous says:

    Gator meat is very white and flavorless. It takes on the character of the spices and oil it is cooked in. If anybody is ever in the area and has a hankerin’ for gator nuggets or airboat rides, a weekly scheduled TLM,accompaniment to confession, or a Knight’s dinner, give me a shout. LOL.

  9. Volanges says:

    VexillaRegis, I believe for the purpose of Friday abstinence the meat of whales and seals is considered fish. I know, I know, but apparently if it lives in water it’s considered fish even if it’s a mammal.

  10. Joan M says:

    When I ate alligator in Asuncion Paraguay it tasted like a cross between chicken and fish.

  11. Michael says:

    Perhaps I’ll use this Lent to see if alligator really does taste like chicken. ;)

  12. Irradiated says:

    Also, due to immemorial custom, muskrat is allowed in the southern part of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Though no record of a formal allowance has been found, the late Archbishop Povish noted that it was allowed by long-standing (on the range of a couple hundred years at least) custom, as well as his opinion that, “anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints.” It looks like St. Charles Borromeo parish in Newport, MI holds a regular muskrat dinner.

    [LOL! I think we need an official clarification on that one!]

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I had something delicious at an Ethiopian restaurant (not in Ethiopia) which I suppose was crocodile (unless it might have been alligator prepared in the manner of crocodile because alligator was easier to get). It was as nice or nicer that rattlesnake, and more satisfying by virtue of being a bigger chunk of meat. Are either as nice as frog legs? I’m not sure about that…

    Has anyone studied the interrelation of the histories of taxonomy and Lenten food? The examples noted here, in post and comments, seem quite bizarre to my ‘modern’ taxonomic sense!

    And what would – and would not – have been on the Lenten Friday selection in Jurassic Park?

  14. truthfinder says:

    I don’t know if it still is, but in the 1600s in Canada, beaver was allowed to be eaten on days of abstinence.

  15. APX says:

    And here I’ve been wondering whether it not I could eat snails on Fridays when I’m craving something chewy. I’ve had to just settle on octopus and squid.

  16. Gregorius says:

    I thought I read something in St. Thomas posted somewhere else online that meat, particularly red meat, is tied to concupiscence of the flesh as well as being a luxury food, or at least something many people find more pleasing to the palette. So it seems to be really more about curbing vice more any ‘solidarity with the poor’ or whatever.

    Feel free to yell at me O Floridian faithful, but to me alligator (at least alligator tail) really does taste just like chicken .

  17. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Just looking at this from the gator’s point of view:

    In Lent, each saintly crocodile
    Who basks upon the sunny Nile
    Abstains from human flash comple-
    tly – but for the occasional knee.

  18. Enoch the Sleestak says:

    truthfinder wrote: “I don’t know if it still is, but in the 1600s in Canada, beaver was allowed to be eaten on days of abstinence.”

    I think it was (and is) just beaver *tails* on account of their fishiness. I’ve read that somewhere, at least.

  19. scribbly says:

    Whilst I was in Papua New Guinea, the Rector of our College said that he would never eat crocodile because he would never be sure he was eating second hand parishioners.

  20. Mariana2 says:

    ““luxury” seafood”

    What is luxury has varied over the centuries. Oysters are now expensive, they used to be poor people’s food in 18th century England. And caviar is peasant food around here, but has an aura of exclusiveness in the rest of Europe and the US.

    Having said that, I was fascinated to learn that alligator, not habent sanguinem calidum, is OK for Fridays!

  21. Imrahil says:

    that this is accordance with the letter of the law of Lenten discipline, but violates the spirit.

    Yeah you hear that often enough.

    If you want to order me something, give me an order. If it’s not a matter of an order but a case for my own spiritual discipline, then don’t give me an order.

    And what about the good old descriptions from War and Peace where they make delicious meat dishes on feastdays and delicious fasting dishes on fasting days? is that worth nothing? (But then, the Orthodox fast a lot.)

    – To something more substantial: fasting is more about the feeling of self-denial than its effects on the wallet. Frankly, oftentimes luxury food as they serve it in the fine restaurants has more of feelable temperation into it than the sub you buy at Subway for some dollars, or the steak buy for similar money and broil at your own barbecue.

    What does that mean, now?

    Well, if you go to a luxury restaurant on a Lenten Friday, be sure to order the fish.

  22. pseudomodo says:

    I have had Alligator a few times. My recollection is that it’s taste and texture was as if you could merge the best white fish and and the best white meat pork together – that’s what it was like. Tasty….

    For the record, I attended a Rod&Gun Club Banquet many years ago and sampled EVERYTHING that creeped, crawled, and stumbled its way across North America – including skunk, racoon and beaver.

  23. incredulous says:

    @psuedomodo… LOL, a veritable road kill smorgasbord. Yummy. ;)

  24. VexillaRegis says:

    Volanges et al, thanks for the info! Alligator seems to be a fowl in disguise – perhaps the Masked Chicken of the Swamp ;-P

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Feel free to yell at me O Floridian faithful, but to me alligator (at least alligator tail) really does taste just like chicken .”

    Not the way WE cook it! What do you think we are in the COOP, cannibals! Of course, chickens, being omnivores, like a little gator on Fridays (with fried rice and corn), since we can’t fish (our poor beaks aren’t up to it).

    “Volanges et al, thanks for the info! Alligator seems to be a fowl in disguise – perhaps the Masked Chicken of the Swamp ;-P”

    Are you saying you have fantasies about cooking me up in a nice wine broth? I recall, somewhere, in the history of the Church that it was a sin to cook and eat masked fowl – or at least it should have been. Perhaps, is there a Masked Crocodile reading this blog? Ah, to be in the swamps. I can see myself becoming the hero in a new comic book – The Adventures of the Swamp Chicken.

    The Chicken

  26. SteelBiretta says:

    If you’re ever in New Orleans, you can, on the same city block, attend a TLM (at St. Patrick’s) and get an alligator burger (at Phil’s Grill). I doubt there are many other places in the world you can do that!

    I wouldn’t put alligator on the same footing as high-end sushi (in terms of violating the “spirit of Lent”). Fried up, it tastes like a chewy combination of catfish and chicken. Not bad, mind you, with some remoulade or tartar sauce. But it’s not exactly extravagant.

  27. Joe in Canada says:

    If the alligator is from tropical waters, is it still cold-blooded?
    ps not taxonomy, I think, as exceptions. The original fast was all animal products, including above or below water. The oldest Byzantine sources allow seafood that does not have a spine. Rome allowed a fish exception in the Middle Ages, and I understand various other “water creature” exceptions since. There used to be an exception for seal on Fridays, even in Lent, in Newfoundland. The most rigorous Byzantines even today will allow shrimp, octopus, etc, as far as I know, while no fish, roe, etc.

  28. Eric says:

    I give up alligator wrestling every year for lent.

  29. ALL: Re: Muskrat on Fridays. See my update, above for the stunning details.

  30. JaneC says:

    Various networks these days have reality shows about people who go around the world eating native dishes that seem peculiar or yucky to the average American supermarket shopper. EWTN should take up the mantle and do a series called “Fridays in Lent.”

  31. Nathan says:

    How, exactly, ought one prepare muskrat for your Lenten supper? If my grandmother (may she rest in peace) found that the most palatable way to make squirrel was to stew them with dumplings, perhaps she was on to something that might work for something as unappealing as muskrat.

    Dumplings, and a ton of salt/pepper/cayenne/sage/rosemary to mask the dishrag taste as much as possible. Or maybe just fish sticks.

    In Christ,

  32. SteelBiretta says:

    @JaneC: EWTN should totally do this. I could envision an entire block of Catholic reality programming. For instance, who wouldn’t watch “Vatican Pickers” (Synopsis: “Two priests travel the country looking for estate sales of deceased Catholics, to make sure no relics are being inadvertently sold.”)? And also maybe a show about monks who roast coffee beans?

  33. JaneC says:

    @SteelBiretta: “Vatican Pickers” could also go to an antique store I visited a couple of years ago and buy up the fiddlebacks and altar cloths that were in a section marked “church fabric.” They could even do a yearly special in which they outfit an ugly church or school chapel with beautiful antiques from churches that have been closed or demolished (like the 19th century windows our parish will have installed in a couple of years).

  34. VexillaRegis says:

    “Are you saying you have fantasies about cooking me up in a nice wine broth? I recall, somewhere, in the history of the Church that it was a sin to cook and eat masked fowl – or at least it should have been. Perhaps, is there a Masked Crocodile reading this blog? Ah, to be in the swamps. I can see myself becoming the hero in a new comic book – The Adventures of the Swamp Chicken.

    The Chicken”

    Shhh! Don’t reveal my true identity!

    The Fowl Alligator of the Scandinavian Swamps alias Crocodilla Regis

  35. SteelBiretta says:

    @JaneC: That show should be called “Wreckovation Wreckers”! Goodbye, felt banners; hello, altar rails!

    And good for you for rescuing that “church fabric.” If I were an eccentric billionaire, I’d spend my time rescuing relics and other church items!

  36. Eric says:

    Muskrat. The other yellow meat.

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Joe in Canada,


    Masked Chicken,

    Do you know Flanders and Swann’s “Reluctant Cannibal”?


    I knew someone who thought deep-fried witchetty grubs were delicious – until he found out what they were! (I suppose they are Lenten fare… though maybe not deep-fried?)

    Imrahil (following on from Joe in Canada),

    You note, “the Orthodox fast a lot.” I’ve had a lot of vegan meals with Orthodox friends on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, and in Lent, out went olive oil, as well! Do (many? most?) Eastern Christian fast/abstain in the same way?

  38. If muskrat actually does have the “taste of a dirty dishrag and the consistency of very old, thick asparagus,” then it certainly qualifies as penitential. In fact, not eating at all might be considered spiritually lazy compared to eating muskrat.

  39. Widukind says:

    Lenten lunch, and penitential fare,
    need never be dull,
    for Friday’s menu isn’t bare
    as many options makes it full.
    Of these choices, some are weird, others odd,
    I do take note,
    and far more exotic than plain old cod,
    is the entree for which I will vote.
    The menu bills
    crawlers and creepers
    slippers and sliders,
    hiding neath big rocks;
    diggers and leapers,
    fliers and gliders
    making up the stock;
    wigglers and peepers,
    all slimy, sticky creatures
    stinking even as old socks.
    Though my gut, these delicacies abhor,
    but one will be my eats today.
    A dish I pick from this vast store,
    as Peter from Joppa’s taboo outlay.
    Prepared how, will be the critter?
    fried or baked, steamed in a pot?
    (or even as a fritter?)
    seasoned sweet or sour, or served cold or hot?
    So what beast will it be to smile at me from the plate,
    to honor Jesus and my hunger sate?
    Will be it:
    – turtle, tortoise, frog or toad,
    served up in an aspic mold?
    – salamander, newt, lizard or skink,
    ground up in a sausage link?
    – scorpion, snail, beetle or bug,
    formed in raviolis snug?
    – lobster, crab, octopus or squid,
    bathed in broth of an inky liquid?
    – spider, mite, shark or ray,
    in tiny sandwiches on a tray?
    – eel, carp, worm or slug,
    roasted whole as cowboy grub?
    – conch, clam, scallop or leech,
    stuffed into an uncooked peach?
    – grasshopper, cricket, constrictor or snake.
    in a casserole finely baked?
    – then finally, be it prawn, croc or gator
    set before me by my waiter?
    All such beasts, large and small
    have in common one striking trait,
    blood runs cold in the veins of all,
    allowing them to be on Friday’s dinner plate.
    For such to pass the lips, takes a stomach strong,
    but grossness nor cost is not the reason,
    of why on Fridays, it’s never wrong,
    to be the grub for a Lenten season.
    A prohibition be understood,
    that on Friday runs no warm. red blood,
    to hail alone the Savior’s blood,
    singularly remembered as that saving flood.
    No worth or power any other blood displays,
    that can sin destroy, and its evil effects erase.
    The Precious Blood marks Friday a special day,
    so no other blood with it be confused or even praised.
    Only Jesus’ blood, so warm and red,
    alone be honored on the day, that it was shed.

  40. afanco says:

    Just wanted to note that +Povish was not an Archbishop but rather the Bishop of the Diocese of Lansing. http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bpovish.html

  41. Legisperitus says:

    But do you have to eat muskrat by candlelight?

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