Friday, April 18, 2014

The one day of the year, revisited

Today, Good Friday 2014, is this blog's 3rd anniversary, and  so I'm republishing the first post from Good Friday 3 years ago..which is about the one day of the year in my childhood when the menu at our house was less than inspiring. 

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.


  1. This has made me realise I haven't been following your blog from the very beginning. :-) Congratulations on your three years!

    And an interesting post. It's Passover for us, but while there are many things we can't have this week, we end up putting on weight because there are so many things you can have and the holiday starts with a family feast. Nobody says you have to eat boring. Of course, we aren't remembering our messiah's horrible death! Mind you, back in the Middle Ages it's fascinating what people had declared as "fish" just so they didn't have to eat boring!;-)

  2. Thanks, Sue!
    Yes, funny, isn't it, the ingenuity people used to try and get around the strictures of Lenten fasts--in the Russian Orthodox tradition too, which still has a long and strict Lent of 40 days, not only can't you eat meat, you can't eat eggs either, fried, boiled, stewed, scrambled etc--and there's a famous Russian folktale about a peasant who desperately wanted an egg but was afraid the devil would get him if he broke the fast--so he devised an ingenuous way to cook an egg by steaming it I think without it touching the pan--and the devil, appearing, says, well I've never seen such a trick--and he is so impressed by this cunning that the peasant gets away with it :)
    Happy Passover! And enjoy the feast!