A day after the surprising announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of the month, I have to admit I still know very little about the Catholic Church.
I was raised Baptist. But several members of my family have converted to Catholicism. This includes my sister, Nadine, and my late uncle Joe Wiley. The endowment program at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School is named for Wiley. He was beloved by the city’s Catholic community and was among those who took communion from Pope John Paul II when he visited St. Louis in January 1999.
In other words, I’m not a stranger to Catholicism; I’m just not an expert on how it works.
But I do love fish. Fat Tuesday is the close of Mardi Gras and the start of Lent. To me, this simply means that today is the unofficial opening of fish fry season.
Years ago, Father Lawrence Biondi was being “roasted” at an event, and I penned some jokes for one of the speakers. He didn’t use this one: "What do you get when you clone a Catholic priest? Twice as many 'Fish Fry on Friday' signs.”
I never met a fish fry I didn’t like, so on this Fat Tuesday, I’ll share several of my favorites in the St. Louis area.
St. Peter, Kirkwood: This is the original fish fry in my mind, because I’m from Kirkwood. We never went to it when we were kids. I thought only members of the church could go. Years later, when I returned to Kirkwood in 1995, I met many people involved with St. Peter, and I finally went. It was here that I learned there was more to fish fries than just square fish cakes and starchy macaroni and cheese.
Our Lady of The Pillar, Creve Coeur: My advice is that you go early. It is loud, crowded, and a lot of fun. You might run into Martin and Mae Duggan there, and I’m told that anybody who is a big deal in the Catholic Church in the region will stop by.
St. Gabriel, South City: A bit pricey, but some of the best fried fish and shrimp I’ve ever had at a fish fry. Last year’s was either amazingly good, or I was very hungry. Like most fish fries, everything is homemade, and the desserts were delicious.
St. Cecilia, St. Louis: It prides itself as the Original Mexican Fish Fry. Along with outstanding fish, there are Latin American dishes as well. Great desserts, too. Many St. Louisans have visited this fish fry and will again in 2013. Be patient. It’s worth it.
St. James the Greater, Dogtown: Two years ago I stopped in on the way home from a happy hour gathering in Dogtown. I’m glad I did. As I remember, they served some of the best side dishes I’ve ever had at a fish fry, and the fish was excellent too.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Crestwood: Close to home for me in Kirkwood, but I had not visited until last year. They had a drive-through, and I used it. Good fish served up quickly. You can’t beat that.
I also want to throw in American Legion Post 397 in Creve Coeur. They serve fish on many Fridays during the year, but really throw down during the Lenten season. What a great bunch of folks to hang out with as you await your hot, fresh fish. Great side dishes including hush puppies. Cake and pie slices are, dare I say, heavenly.
I know you have your favorites and I’d like to hear of some little-know fish events—church related or not—that I can check out this month and into March. Just leave a comment to tell me where I should head for some great fish and good times.