Can anyone see the connection between approximately a quart of chia seeds, a pound of mixed dry soup beans, and a bag of frozen cod filets?
Well, if you figure something out, let me know, but the only thing I know that ties them all together is that they arrived at my house together. I’ve written before about the artichokes who showed up on my porch unexpectedly, but apparently there are many avenues through which food appears in our kitchen. (All of them safe enough that we haven’t died yet...) This particular instance was from a friend whose neighbors were moving, and tossing nonessentials overboard.
I don’t think I’ve ever cooked cod before, but the timing of its coming immediately felt very fortuitous. We have just entered the season of Lent. And in typical fashion, instead of being helpful and foresightful, I didn’t think about it early enough to write about it before it came. Fortunately for my tardy writing style, however, Lent is 40 days long, so I’m still in time.
The number 40 is biblically significant, reflecting the time Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before his ministry began (although there are also lots of other important 40-day periods), but don’t be confused if you count 46 days between Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent) and Easter (the end of Lent). Sundays are not counted in the fasting days, as they are always a day of rejoicing, or a “little Easter,” remembering Christ’s resurrection and victory over death.
The word “Lent” itself is derived from a word meaning “lengthen,” referring to Spring’s lengthening of days...which also may be a relevant feeling to those who are fasting. The idea of fasting being a Lenten activity stems from various intentions: to commemorate the sacrifice Jesus made in giving his life for us, to facilitate in reflection and repentance, to turn our hearts away from things that distract us and back to contentment and gratefulness.
What does all this have to do with a bag of frozen cod? Though nowadays many people choose to abstain from a particular food item or even a non-culinary activity, Lenten fasting traditionally involved forgoing meat, particularly on Fridays (in reference to the day Jesus died). Fish and other seafood, however, are good to go; cod was historically a popular choice. Reptiles and cold-blooded animals are also allowed within the fast, so if you get a hankering for snake or alligator on a Friday, go for it...although I likely won’t provide any recipes for you.
It’s interesting that even though I don’t follow the Catholic rules for Lenten fasting, I think immediately of eating fish, instead of thinking of not eating. The directive is to not eat meat, not to eat seafood, and we could just as well all be vegetarians for the day.
But one article I found fascinating and a definitely interesting argument for the idea of eating pescetarian-style considered the Scriptural mentions of Leviathan, a monstrous aquatic creature of some sort. This primordial sea serpent was an embodiment of chaos and death. So when we serve up fish on Lenten Fridays, it’s just like a little more smacktalk against darkness, eating mini-Leviathans on the day Christ killed death.
I’ll think of that with my bowl of codfish stew.
ExcelLent Whitefish Stew
On restaurant menus, you’ll see often options like fish sticks, Filet-O-Fish, fish cakes, etc, pop up for customers during Fridays in Lent. But far more down my alley is this hearty yet light fish stew, rife with flavor and none of that greasiness. Plus, it makes for good leftovers, and why save the fish-eating for Fridays only?
Prep tips: If you don’t like spicy at all, substitute regular diced tomatoes for the rotel. Regular potatoes could also be substituted for the sweet potatoes, but you’ll miss the subtle sweetness that pairs so well with the mild white fish.
• a dollop of coconut oil
• 2 medium onions
• ½ teaspoon thyme
• 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
• ½ medium head of cabbage, chopped
•2 [10-oz] cans rotel-style tomatoes
•3-4 cups chicken broth
• 1-2 pounds white fish (cod, tilapia, catfish, etc), in chunks
•salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
Saute onions in oil in a soup pot until softening. Stir in the thyme, sweet potatoes, and a dash of salt, and saute another minute or so. Add the cabbage, tomatoes, and broth, and simmer until veggies are tender; nestle the chunks of fish into the hot soup and simmer another 10 or so minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Season to taste and serve over rice.
Amanda Miller lives with her husband, almost-two-years-old son, and whoever else God brings them through foster care on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson. She enjoys doing some catering, teaching cooking classes, and freelancing, but mostly chasing after her kid(s). Reach her at email@example.com.