Friday Fish Fry
There are so many things unique to Buffalo, especially its food. People who move away crave things like beef on weck and genuine Buffalo chicken wings. Out of towners say yeah you can get wings elsewhere, but they just taste better here. And another thing not necessarily unique to Buffalo is the Friday fish fry. You can find fish frys in a lot of cities in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes with a heavily German and Polish Catholic heritage.
Up until 1966, every Friday was a day of fasting for Catholics. It meant mainly going without meat every Friday throughout the year in observance of the day of the week that Jesus was crucified. When I was growing up I remember my mom coming up with all kinds of creative ways to go without meat and still make the family happy. Egg salad sandwiches, cream tuna and peas on toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, fish sticks and French fries, veggie pizza. And occasionally when we could afford it we’d go out for a fish fry.
Almost every corner tavern in the city of Buffalo served a fish fry on Fridays. Typically a Buffalo fish fry is breaded or battered haddock or cod, French fries, cole slaw, maybe a potato pancake, tartar sauce and rye bread and butter.
The U-S Conference of Bishops decided in 1966 that every Friday should remain a day of remembrance and self-denial, but it was up to each Catholic to decide how to do it. The obligation to go without meat was lifted. But the strict obligation of meatless Fridays would be maintained for the Lenten season.
Why is fish not considered meat? Catholic law is written in Latin. It states that Catholics must abstain from “Carne.” The definition of “Carne” is a warm-blooded animal that walks the Earth. Fish don’t meet either requirement.