fish fry web.mp3
11:46PM Mar 7, 2019
Jonese Franklin (announcer)
Online tutorial sound
Steven Michael Carr
From Louisville Public Media. Support for Curious Louisville comes from Lakshmi Farms, which believes in building community and expanding minds through progressive ideas, education and growing soil right here in Anchorage, Kentucky.
Every year at the beginning of Lent, WFPL publishes a list of all the Catholic fish fries in Louisville. Over 50 churches are on the list. And it's always one of our most popular stories of the year. That made us wonder why Catholic fish fries are so popular here in town. As part of Curious Louisville, WFPL's Ashlie Stevens looked into the answer. And she started by talking to one very excited fish fry fan.
It was like, I couldn't wait for Ash Wednesday. And I couldn't wait to be able to eat fish every Friday. Every Friday.
That's Nachand Trabue.
I am from Louisville Kentucky. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, born and raised from birth. I was raised a Catholic.
Even if you aren't Catholic, or weren't raised Catholic, if you live in Louisville, you know fish fries here are A Thing.
So we would go around different places and get fish wherever we wanted, any parish, all your parishes always have fish fries. Holy Cross, the Immaculate Holy Mary, St Stephen's St George, St. Columbia, wherever you was it didn't make a difference.
Every Friday during Lent - the period in the Catholic calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter - churches all across the city serve up fried fish, and sides like macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and green beans. And people are pretty enthusiastic about them. At some of the bigger parishes like Holy Family on poplar level road nightly attendance can reach up to 600 people. There are a number of Facebook groups dedicated to reading the fries, parish to parish. Some local parishioners, even post online tutorials on how to best fry a fillet.
...can only get the fish into the beer batter, and they go on to the seasoning and then we can...
And this made us wonder, why exactly are there so many Catholic fish fries in Louisville? And what, aside from the delicious food, makes them some popular. Greg Hillis is a professor of theology at Bellarmine University, a Catholic College in Louisville. He explains the religious tradition behind eating fish.
It used to be the case right up until the 1960s that on every Friday, you were not allowed to have meat in the Catholic Church at all. And that was because Friday is the traditional time when we recognize that that's the day on which Jesus died.
So Catholics wouldn't eat any warm-blooded animal that can be sacrificed in the way the New Testament of the Bible says Jesus was sacrificed. Then in 1962, came the Second Vatican Council, sometimes called Vatican II. This was a meeting on a global scale in which the pope at the time, Pope Paul the sixth, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. This resulted in some big changes for the church, including one that ties into fish fries.
Paul the sixth decided to loosen the fasting rules so that only during Lent, was it that you were not eating meat on Fridays.
So that explains the global religious tradition behind eating fish on Fridays. But how did so many Catholics end up in Louisville? Like so many things in our city, the answer is the Ohio River.
Falls of the Ohio - which are, you know, right here in Louisville, when there were immigrants coming down the Ohio - was a natural stopping place. And so German and French Catholics essentially stopped and settled in the area of Louisville and then south.
And they formed church communities here.
And it's the third oldest diocese in the United States.
And according to Hillis, engaging with the Catholic community is actually a big part of events like fish fries. Hillis converted to Catholicism over a decade ago while living in Canada.
The place where I lived didn't have a huge Catholic community. So there were no fish fries. But when I moved to Louisville 10 years ago, and it was my first Lent, that's when I realized sort of how pervasively Catholic Louisville is by the sheer number. I looked in the newspaper and saw the sheer number of fish fries with that happen.
And Hillis used that as an opportunity to engage with his new neighbors.
And it's a it's a place for us to sort of gather and get to know one another.
For some people like Steven Michael Carr, engaging in those spaces is a way to connect to his family's Catholic history.
I have been going to fish fries since I was born.
Carr is an ordained Baptist Deacon, but his entire family was raised Catholic.
I think that being part of that, it helps me connect with my family - not even necessarily on a religious level but my my family's own internal cultural level. I get to fit in with them and it gives me a framework to spend time with them.
Carr says the only fish fry he really attends is that the Good Shepherd Catholic parish at 35th and Rudd in the Portland neighborhood. Good Shepherd is a church made up of the merged congregations of several churches that closed long ago -- some of which Carr's family had attended.
It also kind of connects me to my family's history - not just my family right now, but my family's history by proxy.
And at the end of the day, more specifically the end for Friday, that seems to be the appeal of these events: Being part of something - be it a family, a neighborhood, or religious group - that's bigger than yourself. Though fresh fried fish is definitely a bonus. I'm Ashlie Stevens in Louisville.