I live in Louisiana, where it’s actually quite difficult to consider Lent a penitential season. No meat—go eat seafood. Um, okay.
But there are plenty of more obscure ways to fulfill your Lenten fast. So just in case you somehow manage to get tired of crawfish, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, and a thousand varied species of fish (or if you’re one of those poor souls who lives in a land-locked place), here are a few other items you might consider adding to your Lenten table.
Gator is good, y’all. It’s so good, even alligators eat it. Personally, I like it blackened, that is, coated in a spice mixture and sautéed, but it’s also often served fried. If you can find it, try it. However, I’m still searching to find the part where eating this is penitential.
By the way, according to the USCCB website, all reptiles are fair game, so if you’ve got a hankering for rattlesnake or iguana, eat up.
- Muskrat and Beaver
I admit, I’ve never tried these, but long-standing oral tradition in the Michigan area held that they were Lent-approved because of their status as aquatic creatures, and the archbishop of Detroit made it official in 2002. According to Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing, “Anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest saints.” If it tastes anything like nutria—which I have tried—he’s 100% correct, and we should probably all be eating aquatic rodents for Lent. Which brings me to…
Spanish missionaries in South America received a papal bull to have the capybara named a “fish” for Lenten purposes. Although it is another aquatic rodent, this one is supposed to be delicious, and it’s a regular Lenten dish to this day in Venezuela and other South American countries. Or so the Internet says. I kind of doubt it’s all that popular because I have a friend from Venezuela who says she wouldn’t eat one, and she’s pretty adventurous with her food. We’ve traded recipes for octopus.
If you want to continue the Lenten traditions of your African ancestors (or your Portuguese ancestors who evangelized Africa), you’re going to need a really, really big gun. And escape routes, because hippos are the deadliest large land mammal. The penitential part of this one is likely to be the hospital stay after you get bitten or sat on, assuming you survive.
It seems there was a bit of a dust-up over the practice of eating Puffin during Lent in a seventeenth-century French monastery. The Archbishop of Rouen forbade it because fowl are Lenten no-nos, so the monks assembled scientists to help prove their point that puffin was “more fish than fowl,” and the archbishop eventually relented. So I guess if you’re desperate for the taste of fowl this Lent, head to Normandy for some puffin hunting!