Fish on Friday: It's a Good Thing

Categories: Lunch

Photos by John Kiely
Doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice to have this for lunch.

It's a cinch to give up meat for Lent on the seafood-abundant Gulf Coast. But I grew up in the landlocked Midwest, and during the weeks leading up to Easter my parents had a fondness for baked haddock, one of the fishiest-tasting fish I know. I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese.

When I balked, my parents told me I was lucky, as they abstained from meat every Friday of the year when they were young. That threw me, as I'd always thought it of a give-up-stuff-for-Lent sort of thing, a question of sacrifice and spiritual discipline. So, why did the rule change, and where did the practice originate?

A legend is that a pope instituted the practice as a way of propping up his friends in the Italian fishing industry, and in fact the price of fish plummeted worldwide in 1966 when Pope Paul IV oversaw the rule change. However, the practice of meat-abstaining predates this myth. One historian claimed that early Christians, offended that meat from sacrificial animals was for sale in markets on Fridays, avoided buying meat altogether on that day.

Never Mind the Truth

I never learned the definitive reason, but as I've grown to love seafood (except haddock), the spiritual discipline has merged with culinary discipline to spawn a solid reason to look for a great place for fish every Lenten season. This year, I decided on J & J Seafood, a fish market and fried-fish carryout joint at Stella Link and 610.

This past Friday I arrived J & J at noon, just as the lunch rush began. The parking lot overflowed, and a crowd surged in and out of the door. Inside, I saw the wildest frenzy I've ever seen in a restaurant, with dozens of customers ordering and jockeying for position in line. The fishmongers yelled out orders, sometimes in English, sometimes in Vietnamese, and orchestrated the activity with the finesse of air-traffic controllers.

This story continues on the next page.

Location Info


J & J Seafood Market

3825 Woodvalley Dr., Houston, TX

Category: General



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My Voice Nation Help

I grew up near New Orleans. We should have been instructed NOT to eat seafood on Friday. Bigger sacrifice.

Bruce_Are topcommenter

Dude, fish is animal flesh. It's meat. If you think the man upstairs is going to let you off on a technicality then you've got another thing coming.


Tomorrow I'm going to Goode Co. Seafood for the grilled flounder po'boy, a sandwich that always leaves me feeling blessed.

Bruce_Are topcommenter


I was raised Catholic so I know the drill. Fish 'n beer on Friday during lent. The sacrifices we make because of our faith.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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