Funny I've finally got around to starting this blog today--which I've been meaning to do for some time--because it's Good Friday, the one day of the year in my frangaroo childhood that the menu at our house was anything less than inspiring. That's because we kept the Good Friday fast or rather diet. We always ate fish on Fridays but I never minded that, because I always loved fish except for the very bony ones, and under Maman's skilled and imaginative fingers it was always tranformed into a meal fit for a king, anyway. But Good Friday meant the following menu: Boiled whitefish with salt; boiled potatoes, ditto, steamed cabbage, ditto. Water to drink. And that's it. No wine for my parents. No cheese, fruit, sweets, butter, meat, oil, eggs, or any flavourings other than salt(not even pepper.) No salad. No yummily-cooked vegies. Nothing other than that miserable monochrome menu.
Just one day of the year. And a very small sacrifice, in pathetic and even ridiculous proportion to the terrible event we were memorialising. We knew all that. But of course we complained. And we eternally hungry kids who from the tenderest babyhood were accustomed to having our palates delighted every day, weren't the only ones to complain. My father would spend much of Holy Thursday evening lamenting the culinary ordeal that was soon to follow, and was up bright and early on Holy Saturday morning to tuck into a tasty breakfast of crisp-fried pancetta and fresh bread--he who hardly ever had more than a cup of coffee most mornings. And, oh, his glum looks at his Good Friday plate! All that was tradition too--and so was Maman's half-joking, half-serious reproof to him, telling him off for giving us a bad example.
These days, I'm not as assiduous as my parents on the Good Friday food front, and though I cannot bring myself to eat any meat or sweets that day, the fish and seafood menu at our place can hardly be seen as a penance. But then my parents themselves aren't as dedicated as they were in my childhood. In 2010 we were at their place in France for Good Friday, and though it was fish of course, there was not only salt, but pepper and oil and vinegar and nice vegetables and fruit. Monochrome it seemed was gone forever. 'Well, you see, ' said Dad, 'once you're over 70, the Church says you no longer have to keep the Good Friday fast. You just musn't eat meat.' And he smiled, and happily helped himself to another bowl of Maman's excellent fish soup.