Countdown to The Lent 2012 Challenge

Growing up as a post-Vatican II kid, meatless Fridays in Lent meant three things:  grilled cheese and tomato soup, tuna noodle casserole, or fish sticks and tater tots.  By the fifth week, we’d given up on all of those and ordered pizza. 

When I became a Lay Dominican in 2009, I made promises to fast from meat on all Fridays unless prohibited by “grave reasons.”  I admit, I assumed the ‘grave reasons’ part exempted me.  I’m allergic to most protein-rich legumes, and we’re on a one-income budget, so we can’t afford fish once a week, either.  I fasted from other things on Fridays, like computer games, but we didn’t abstain from ‘flesh meat.’

A few months after making my temporary promises, however, a friend convinced me otherwise.  We were closing up a meeting of our Little Flowers Girls Club and talking about what we were making for dinner once we got home, and this friend asked me if we did meatless Fridays, too.  Her disappointment at my ‘no’ made me realize that, if this friend with a larger family than mine, with just as many dietary needs, and also on a single income could do it, then I really had no excuse.  About a year of meatless Fridays later, I started blogging as “Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP.”  Each Friday of the year, I share a “budget-friendly, hypoallergenic recipe” for meatless family eating.  Selections range from obatzda—a German cheese spread—to Good Friday Soup—a hearty vegetarian vegetable soup with a tomato juice base. 

For Lent 2012, however, I have posed for our family a new challenge:  to prepare meals that abide by the Lenten dietary rules that were in place before the changes of Vatican II.  Alas, I’m highly allergic to peanuts, so making peanut butter sandwiches for the children’s lunches is not an option.  Thus, our weekday ‘once daily meat’ serving will have to be during lunch time.  Therefore, with the exception of Sundays, every dinner for all forty days of Lent will have to be free of flesh-meat, meaning meat which must be drained of its blood before being prepared as food. 

For years I’d thought the old meatless rules were based on economic reasons, to support failing fishermen or something.  It wasn’t until I started doing more research that I learned the tradition goes much farther back than that.  The whole reason flesh meats are avoided is in honor of the blood of our Savior, spilled for us onCalvary.  When we avoid spilling the blood of any creature in order to feed ourselves, we honor that Sacrifice, who is the ultimate Food for both body and soul. 

I’ve had a few people tell me that we should be giving our money to the poor instead of spending it on meatless meals, but why can’t we do both?  This can be a real witnessing tool, I think.  I have a lot of unchurched vegans and vegetarians checking out the site.  If we can connect over food, maybe we can connect on deeper levels down the road.

Mostly, I hope this blog will be a resource for family-friendly Lenten meals.  There are a ton of Catholic apologetics blogs out there.  From the get go, I didn’t want to make Mrs. Mackerelsnapper another place for debate.  I just wanted to provide a place where we could be unapologetic about the things we do to give Jesus a little more room in our lives.  I also wanted to give our kids a tangible lesson in Church history, give them a real sense of the roots of our faith.

The Mackerelsnapper family is supportive with two caveats.  My husband demanded that I blog all of it, including the Sunday meat-feasts.  My oldest daughter also gave in as long as we have bacon at every meal—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—on Sundays.  I’m not so sure about that one yet.

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About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to CatholicMom.com and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at erinmccolecupp.com .

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