Forgive me, fathers—I might have sinned.
Ash Wednesday has passed. Now, some practicing Christians from ages 14 to 59 have volunteered themselves in the act of fasting (eating only one full meal a day) and abstinence (skipping meat) during Fridays of Lent. These are rooted in tradition which are considered as forms of penance and personal sacrifice.
It’s just about six Fridays, really. But it’s during these days when most people realize that vegetables and seafood are not as accessible compared to pork, chicken and beef. It’s nothing political nor religious; it’s purely economics.
That said, devout people on-the-go may struggle to find the time in preparing for themselves meat-free dishes, and that’s how some fast foods and restaurants here in the Philippines began to come up with “Lenten Specials” as a way to attract their usual number of dine-in customers during Fridays.
Off the top of my halo-less head, here are three eats that you can easily have access to during Lenten Fridays, and on a slightly selfish note, these may not necessarily feel like much of a sacrifice, taste-wise:
Not all ngohiong is pork-free. But generally speaking, this type of fried spring roll is prepared with various vegetables like carrots, onion, garlic, and water chestnuts, then seasoned with five-spice powder, salt, and pepper. Some vendors fry it in pork lard, though. Just thought I should get that out there.
Fast food options
Props to Burger King (plant-based burgers and chicken sandwiches, Jollibee (tuna pies) and McDonald’s (fried fish fillets and fries) for coming up with these quick eats. What’s that they say about modern problems requiring modern solutions? These delicious bites may present the ultra religious with a moral dilemma.
Sushi, sashimi and your classic ebi tempura. Talk about going pedal to the metal, these offerings are of the more luxurious types and are even considered by most as more delicious than your usual pork, chicken and beef dishes.
On the more practical side, there’s canned tuna or sardines which you can easily top off some freshly cooked pasta. You can also choose to cook some instant noodles and toss a few squid balls in the pot for good measure.
The most important takeaway from all of this is that even if we choose to eat one meal a day (OMAD) and abstain from meat, when done without the spirit of discipline and self-denial—and rather going about it as a legalistic requirement—we may have missed the entire point. Yes, it’s possible to lose even when you play by the rules.
Think: Caviar on smoked salmon enjoyed with some cheese and wine? See what I mean?
I’m no dietitian nor theologian. Do with this information as you wish.