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Lenten food?

It starts Wednesday. What else is there beside fish frys, pretzels and hot cross buns?

Here's an old post on Lenten soups

Something I never heard of before that is served on Holy Week in Ecuador is fanesca, a soup with twleve beans and grains (symbol of the twelve apostles). From wikipedia

"It is a rich soup, with the primary ingredients being figleaf gourd (sambo), pumpkin (zapallo), and twelve different kinds of beans and grains (chochos (lupines), habas (fava beans), lentils, peas, corn and others) ... and bacalao (salt cod), cooked in milk, due to the Christian religious prohibition against red meat during Holy Week (the week before Easter). It is also generally garnished with hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs, parsley, and sometimes empanadas"

The Greeks have Lenten Cake - (Keik Nistisimo)

There's also Greek Lenten Bread (Lagana)

"The Lenten bread known as Lagana traditionally sees the light of day only once each year, on the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent, known as Clean Monday. "

From a blog with sections of Maria Von Trapp's book (yes, the real one, not Julie Andrews), there are reicpes for

- Spring Herb Soup (Siebenkraeutersuppe) served on Holy Thursdsay
"Afterwards there is the traditional spinach with fried eggs. In Austria, Holy Thursday is called Gruendonnerstag (Green Thursday). Many people think that the word “gruen” stands for the color, but this is not so. It derives from the ancient German word “greinen,” meaning “to cry or moan.” Nevertheless, Gruendonnerstag will have its green lunch."

- Unleavened bread (and an interesting food-related section following the recipe)

- Simmel Cake (served on the third Sunday of Lent when some Catholics were allowed a day off from the fasting)

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  1. When i was growing up Catholic in the 80s, Fridays during Lent meant cheese pizza. Not exactly a sacrifice.

    I'm kind of curious to see what others post. I'd like to try some Lenten recipes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: manraysky

      I grew up Catholic in the 70s-80s and Fridays either meant fish fries at the local church, various pierogies, baked mac and cheese or tuna noodle. We had to eat fish sandwiches or fish sticks at the school barfatoria, or at McDs if my friends had a car and could leave school for lunch when I was in HS.

      Ive discovered a way to make fish sticks from haddock and cod fillets and they are actually quite good.

    2. we always had fish sticks. now that was sacrifice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: j8715

        Sacrifice/ torture - you got that right! Mrs. Paul's fish sticks or a can of tuna heated with Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup poured over toast.

      2. Fish sticks, tuna noodle casserole, mac & cheese, or breakfast foods...eggs and fried potatoes or pancakes.

        Cheese pizza would have been a dream come true!

        Technically, we had a dispensation because my dad was military, but my parents were very Catholic and never took advantage of that.

        1. rworange not certain if I asked you this in another thread (about winding country roads up to a lake), but since you are in Guatemala I am curious whether they have as many varieties of dried fish this time of year and have Lenten specialties based on dried fish like El Salvador (prepared various ways included filets and fish balls, generally served in a broth sometimes made with shrimp). Its not a cooking tradition, but in this part of Brazil there is a fishing moratorium through carnaval, but they lift a lot of the restrictions in time for lent (obviously the science of managing the stocks and timing for spawning in the rivers plays a huge role, but I think practicality has something to do with it -- keep restrictions through carnaval (when prices surge) but then release them when the demand is high). Probably the most unusual dish I have had for Lent in Brazil is salt cod in a bean puree with okra, although it maybe a more modern dish, and frankly I would prefer a good bacalhoada anyway. : -)

          Here in Espirito Santo Semana Santa is the week when a 'torta capixaba' is prepared, a dish of assorted seafood and salt cod, prepared with heart of palm, colored with annato, mixed with egg whites, and baked in a traditional panela de barro (clay pot).

          7 Replies
          1. re: itaunas

            I'm not having a lot of luck finding Guatemalan lenten food. The family said there isn't any, but they are Evangelicos ... so who knows. On Sad Tuesday (Carnival), the kids have no school. No parades or anything. As far as I can determine the only tradition is throwing colored eggshells filled with confetti at people

            This site says

            " As far as special Easter foods go, Guatemala has very few, although there is a dish called pescado seco (dried fish) that is made after soaking dehydrated, salted fish in water then cooking it as you wish. It’s about as tasty as it sounds. Don’t fret, though – tamales and atol are a big part of the tradition, too"

            Another site had a dried cod recipe called Cod Bizkaia. However, given the description I'm thinking it might be something served on the Carribian side of GT.

            Search turned up a Nicaraguan dish served on Fridays during Lent that is called sopa de rosquilles, a soup with ring-shaped corn dumplings.

            Still haven't exhausted my resources for asking about Lenten food in GT. I have a few more people to ask.

            Hmmm ... maybe igauana on Fridays?

            "iguana was an important meat substitute during the colonial period, since the Catholic Church declared it a type of fish for consumption on meatless days."

            1. re: rworange

              The iguana thing reminds me of a Downriver Detroit tradition of eating muskrat during Lent

              Wikipedia: "Muskrats have sometimes been a food resource for humans. Muskrat meat is said to taste like rabbit or duck.

              In the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, there is a longstanding dispensation allowing Catholics to consume muskrat on Ash Wednesday, and the Fridays of Lent (when the eating of meat, except for fish, is prohibited). Because the muskrat lives in water, it is considered equivalent to fish.

              Lenten dinners of muskrat are therefore traditional in parts of Michigan."

              1. re: rworange

                Well, food-wise Lent/Easter is a bust in Guatemala ... no aisles of chocolate bunnies, Reese's peanut butter eggs, peeps, jelly beans ... no Easter ham, lamb, babka, egg dye kits, etc

                It is only salted fish. There are lots and lots of displays of salted fish. It seems to be a Central American thing. When I visited the Central Market in San Jose, Costa Rica it was stuffed to the gills with salted fish. I was thinking .. "gee, Costa Ricans must really love the stuff" and then I remembered .... Lent.

                I loved the sign at the Costa Rican market for "bacalao noruego legitimo" ... I guess there must be fish vendors trying to sell phony Norwegian salted cod.

                I won't even be trying any salted cod because the fish that was purchased went bad ... as in someone saying "did a mouse die in the kitchen?" Nope, it was the cod. More "exciting" salted fish photos on flickr


                My mother-in-law, a devout Catholic, is only eating plain chuchitos this week for Holy Week ... sort of a plain tamale. Today, Good Friday, no one is cooking in the house ... and they aren't even Catholic.

                According to this website a fermented fruit / grain drink called suchiles might be more common during Lent though it is served all year.


                I am noticing more suchiles stands during Lent ... and the same was true when I first moved to Guatemala a year ago. More about suchiles in this post


                We did have torrejas last night which the above link mentions. However, there seem to be few Easter-specific foods. Anything special for the season is just the celebratory food served at other occasions. Al I get is blank looks from Guatemalas when I ask about Easter food.

                What Guatemala lacks in food for the season, they certainly make up for in pagentry with processions, streets carpeted in flowers and buildings draped in purple cloth and decorated in pine.


                My understanding is that some have altars for Holy Week with fruit such as the unfortanely bad final photo below of a Semana Santa altar at a small restaurant. The fruit is eaten on Easter.day

                Well, all that color is nice, but I miss the pagan excess of Easter in the US.

                For heaven's sake, Guatemalans treat Easter like a religious holiday

                1. re: rworange

                  rworange one Brazilian tradition of Sexta Feira Santa (Good Friday) and in some cases Semana Santa, but not the whole of Lent is eating canjica -- sweetened posole cooked in milk. I had forgotten about that because it plays an even bigger role in Festa Juninas, but some people as their sacrifice only eat canjica (and others make it just because of tradition) on 6a santa. I have had two types today, one with coconut and the other with peanut which was my preferred, but flavoring with both is common two (who knows, maybe tonight I will have that too). I almost flagged down the local horse-drawn raw milk vendor yesterday thinking of canjica, but by the time I see him again I think I will prefer rice pudding!

                  Shrimp is ridiculously expensive as demand is high and local fishing of it is closed, so we have been buying lousy shrimp from Bahia. Salt Cod was more reasonable, although I was only buying "Bacalhau Saite" which is a darker, stronger tasting product than "Bacalhau do Porto" (premium salt cod which is legitimate North Atlantic cod from fish which are larger than 3kg, mostly from Norway like yours, less expensive types come from the North Pacific but can be called bacalhau and Saithe, Ling, etc can't be called "bacalhau"). Here there are fishmongers and markets which try to pass the pacific cod off as Bacalhau do Porto, so probably the same thing happens in Costa Rica.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Great information. For a few years I attended Festa Juninas celebrations that the Brailians have in the SF Bay Area. I'll have to keep my eyes open for the posole at the next one.

                    Ah, counterfeit cod.

                  2. re: rworange

                    I don't recall salt cod being very common in Ecuador, though I noted that it is included in their celebrated Fanesca - a Holy Week stew featuring '12 grains'. In any case, bacalao points back to Spanish roots.

                    A lot of what you (and I) think of as Easter foods and traditions derive from pre-christian northern European spring celebrations (even the English word 'easter' is pre-christian). In the US it is a blend of English and German practices, plus other immigrants, and a lot of post immigration innovation.

                    Catholic (especially Spanish/Hispanic) focus is on Holy Week, especially Good Friday. Protestants have shifted more focus to Sunday, the Resurrection. Symbolically you can see this in the Catholic crucifix v. the Protestant bare cross. Protestants also dropped most of the Catholic fasting/abstinence practices. Eastern Orthodox give the two periods comparable focus, so the Pascha feast, which celebrates both the Resurrection and the end of Lenten abstinence, is well know for its lavish food spread.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Yeah, I miss the whole pagan part. It is surprising that with the huge German influence in Guatemala that none of the Easter traditions seem to have survied here.

                      Anyway, in a response about Semana Santa, there were some corrections and additional information by Antigua Daily Photo

                      " I don't think fresco de suchiles is a drink of Cuaresma or Semana Santa, it's more like all year long drink ... My mom asked today if we had already eaten pescado envuelto en huevo (dried fish with egg batter) and curtidos (pickled vegetables) which are the traditional food for the Holy Week. For dessert people have empanadas de leche with fresco de suchiles

              2. If it's Lent, it's gumbo z'herbes for the good folk of Louisiana. The greens you use can vary, but tradition dictates there's got to be an odd number of them. In Japan, tempura was developed for days of abstinence (quattuor tempora), which makes them especially suitable for Lent. In the Philippines, Lenten tables will often feature mung bean soup in seafood broth, though this is popular throughout the year as well. Fish empanadas also make a showing throughout the Latin world.

                Amongst Mexicans, one finds tortitas, little fritters smothered in a burstingly flavorful salsa, become plentiful during Lent with meals ending with capirotada, a Lenten bread pudding. In Spain it seems everything has bacalau, aside from desserts like torrijas or pestiños.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  I was just reading about gumbo z'herbes this morning! It was a new one on me and I'm interested in trying it this season.

                  Salmon patties make an appearance, as does potato and onion soup served with cheese and bread.

                  hot cross buns!

                2. Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we'll have a very simple breakfast - toast, coffee, and a little *yogurt (have *that every morning) and basically fast the rest of the day. For dinner I'm cooking Pasta alla Norma. Ingredients include eggplants, garlic, ricotta salata, tomatoes, pasta - no meat. The same routine is followed for Good Friday. On some Fridays during Lent we simply have vegetarian meals, on other Fridays we have seafood. Growing up I remember my mother cooking basically seafood on Fridays without any set or ritual dishes.

                  There was a wonderful fish monger in our town and his business was terrific year round since he was in the Irish and Italian area of town and most adults abstained from meat on Fridays all year long. But since the reorganization of the fast & abstainence rules meat on Fridays outside of Lent is allowed.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Gio

                    Gio just a random Boston fishmonger note. Courthouse Seafood restaurant actually came to happen out of a tradition where the fishmarket (then in the hands of the father with his sons) fried fish on Wednesdays and Fridays year round. (The Inman Legal Seafoods also benefitted from the Catholic church given its proximity to Portuguese/Italian East Cambridge, plus Irish in neighboring areas.) They still offer a larger portion of fish and chips as a Wednesday special (super fish and chips) at the restaurant run by the sons and their sister. This time of the year the Courthouse market is slammed and people come suburbs where Portuguese families have moved (like Saugus) there just to shop at lent. And they offer cured 'presunto' for Easter itself. Muqueca in East Cambridge also offers the torta capixaba I mentioned above, not certain of any other restaurants in the US which make it.

                    1. re: itaunas

                      Itaunas... yes, the first generations of families from predominately Cathoilc countries had a lot of influence on what the stores and resturants sold in "the old days." Now we take the availability of certain ingredients and dishes for granted.

                      I've never had torta capixaba. It sounds wonderful. The only time we had salt cod, that I recall, was the Christmas Eve baccala.

                      1. re: itaunas

                        My family is Portuguese and Catholic, from SE Massachusetts, and we had fish and chips every Friday when I was very young. And it seemed like some sort of fish was always the Friday special at all the local restaurants.

                    2. Lent: Ahhh..I was actually speaking with my daughter earlier on this subject. She mentioned that when the kids were younger, every Fat Tuesday, I would make a ton of cupcakes and ice them in yellow, purple, and green frosting and bring the lot into school for my childrens' classes. I miss those days. Back when we were kids, in the sixties and seventies, Lent was a very solemn time in my childhood home. On Ash Wednesday, we had to fast--so dinner was usually Mrs. Paul's fish sticks and some kind of overcooked, olive green veg. Fridays were Mrs. Paul's fish sticks or fish cakes and spaghetti with Ragu sauce. Penance indeed.
                      One of the Lenten bright spots, though, was years later when my ex-husband and I moved to NJ. On Friday evenings during the Lenten Season, we would head to the Hibernean Hall in Hamilton and enjoy the fish fry. Those fish frys made Lent fun!
                      Nowadays, there are really no official "lenten" recipes in the house other than real fish on Fridays. No snacking or desserts or in-between meals till Easter. Lent has turned into a healthy eating season for me!

                      1. Laetare Sunday, on which Simnel Cake was eaten in England, is the Fourth Sunday of Lent. It's still Mother's Day in Britain for that reason....

                        Of course, the entire point of "Lenten foods" is NOT to obsess or linger over them or their details. The point is (1) to recover a sense of hunger and thus one's dependance on God rather than self, (2) identify one's immoderation with respect to food (gluttony implicates not just eating too much, but also fussiness, luxury, and generally all food-related control issues, so even eating too little as a method of control is a species of gluttony), and (3) engage in solidarity with those for whom hunger is not a choice.

                        For a number of Chowhounds, it also means either not participating in Chowhound or greatly reduced reading/commenting about food for the season.

                        May your ashes be dark and your Lent long

                        Btw, for eastern Christians, Great Lent began yesterday, Clean Monday. The eastern Christian churches have a truly signficant abstinence tradition that makes the Roman way seem like kid's play. (No flesh, no dairy, no eggs, no oil, no wine; exceptions for certain items made on certain feasts during the season.)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Karl S

                          OT but nterestingly, Karl, today, 8 March, is Woman's Day in Italy. Festa della Donna is a day when women are honored, given bouquets of fresh mimosa and gifts, special meals, etc.

                          1. re: Gio

                            Today is also the 100th Anniversay of International Women's Day, so we can be celebrated all over! Special meals for all! :-)

                        2. It's funny, but I always think Lent is more about what you don't eat than what you do. As a child, I usually gave up a favorite dessert, like ice cream. As an adult, I often give up meat or wine. Can't quite bring myself to give up desserts.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Isolda

                            Giving up dessert is the reason for Hot Cross Buns...

                            1. re: Cathy

                              Yes, I make mine with a bit more sugar than the recipe calls for, and my crosses are extra thick....

                          2. I grew up in the 60's. We had a lot of what I called "Yellow Dinner". Kraft mac and cheese, scrambled eggs , and canned corn.

                            We had salmon patties made from canned salmon. I hated those things then but can eat them now.

                            Rarely we would have pre-breaded, frozen shrimp and french fries.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: chileheadmike


                              Mom didn't cook fresh fish. We had a lot of creamed salmon on toast, mac and cheese, eggs, frozen fish sticks, etc.

                              One thing I did love -- and still do to this day -- is that my lunchbox sandwich was cream cheese and olive on pumpernickel. I was never much of a peanut butter sandwich fan.

                              1. re: sablemerle

                                I love cream cheese, olive, and walnut sandwiches! Not because I wasn't into peanut butter, though. I love it all. So glad you mentioned it, haven't had it in ages. That will change!

                                We didn't have loads of fresh fish growing up because of where we lived but Mom used to make what amounted to stuffed potatoes with canned salmon. Tasty.

                            2. E rworange, Aloha:

                              You already sound well-informed about Lenten recipes, but you might try looking in Escoffier. There are many Lenten recipe variations presented there.

                              Hau'oli Pōʻalua Momona (Happy Fat Tuesday),
                              Le Bon Ton Roulet,

                              1. We had fried oyster poboys, or fried shrimp on Fridays. The schools in La always had fish sticks so we weren't subjected to them at home. If my dad had gone fishing we'd have fish, usually fried. All that fried food, and we were all thin as rails - go figure. My mom took Lent seriously, so we were all required to "give up" something for Lent, but that didn't mean she didn't feed us well.

                                1. Mid 1960s-1970s. My mom was (quite thankully) unlike most in that she did not like canned or frozen foods. So we had whatever fresh fish was available at the local market (fortunately, a large city on the east coast), potatoes or potato cakes, salads, veggies.

                                  Also, for a woman of Irish descent, mom was a good Italian cook: spaghetti (sans meatballs), cheese lasagna, various other cheese-based pasta dishes.

                                  For breakfast it was mostly eggs, french toast or cinnamon toast. For lunch cheese sandwiches and/or hoagies or fish sandwiches.

                                  1. Fanesca is more of a Holy Week (pre Easter) dish than a Lenten one. Here's a nicely illustrated recipe

                                    The use of salt cod points to Spanish origins; I can't think of other common uses of salt cod in Ecuadorian cooking. The chochos (lupini beans) are used in other dishes, including salsas and salads, but are hard to find in the US, except for expensive Italian canned ones.

                                    1. Tuna casserole was a staple, as was cheese souffle, scrambled eggs and baked beans (all covered in ketchup), homemade olive cheese spread on dark bread, welsh rarebit, potato pancakes, blueberry pancakes. Fish frys on Friday were a staple when I was growing up. Can't get them in VA.

                                      1. As a kid, we had either fried haddock with home fries and peas, or a shrimp dish my mom made, and I LOVED. She made a bechemal sauce, added peas, carrots, onions and shrimp and served over toast.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: macca

                                          I remember a creamed dish with peas, carrots and onions served over salmon...variation on a theme.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Loved it when I was a kid. I have some shrimp in my freezer, and think I will make this dish soon!

                                        2. Not necessarily Lenten, but meatless, is the cauliflower Quiche I just put in the oven. I'm having a luncheon here today, didn't plan it for the beginning of lent, but that's when people could make it. Swiss cheese, french fried onion rings, fresh caulif, farm fresh free range eggs and cream. It's a good recipe for Lent or any time.
                                          When we were Catholic, fish on fridays was a treat, never a sacrifice.