While the season of Lent means fasting and sacrifice for Christians around the globe, it also means it’s time for the annual tradition of fish fries at parishes and non-profit organizations across the lakes area.
Fish fries have become a staple on Friday nights during Lent — the 40-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending at Easter, marking Jesus Christ’s resurrection — when abstinence from eating meat products is required for many Christians.
The Bible says Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting, meditating and reflecting before beginning his ministry. Lent is mostly observed in the West by Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Roman Catholics through prayer, repentance, giving of alms and self-denial of vices.
Just like the tradition of Fat Tuesday before the beginning of Lent, fish fries are a tradition many people seek out during Lent. And like the Fat Tuesday tradition of eating paczki — fried Polish pastries usually filled with fruit — fish fries aren’t enjoyed just by Christians: They’ve become popular among some non-Christians.
While one can find fish on the menu at many commercial eating establishments, the area’s Lenten fish fries provide a means for parishes and non-profit groups to raise funds for various charities and programs.
The following is a look at some, although not necessarily all of the area’s fish fries.
OAKLAND COUNTY SPORTSMAN’S CLUB
The Oakland County Sportsman’s Club holds its fish fry on Friday nights throughout the year — not just during Lent — from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at its lodge at 4770 Waterford Road in Clarkston, with the exception of holiday weekends and the month of December.
The fish fry includes baked and fried cod (wild caught North Atlantic cod), fried chicken, fries, coleslaw, a hot vegetable, corn bread, dinner rolls, and coffee.
Pricing is $8 for adults, $7.50 for seniors 62 and over, $6 for kids age 5 to 10, and children under the age of 5 eat for free.
Salli Petherbridge, the club’s office manager, said the fish fry preparation begins on Thursdays and the number of workers varies between 13 and 24, with the club needing at least 13 workers to make the event run smoothly.
“Club members serve the fish and the chicken, and the food tables are restocked continuously throughout the serving times,” she said.
Petherbridge said that head counts for a fish fry average around 230, but that number will increase to close to 300 on Fridays during Lent.
She added that proceeds from the fish fry help to offset day-to-day club expenses, and that the event is a major fund-raiser for the club.
ST. WILLIAM PARISH, WALLED LAKE
St. William in Walled Lake is holding its 23rd annual “All You Can Eat” fish fry on Fridays during the Lenten season, from 4 to 8 p.m., until April 22 at 531 Common Street.
The event is being put on by the St. William’s Dads Club.
This year will mark the 23rd consecutive year that St. William has hosted a fish fry, which also offers carry-out service as well as dine-in service. There will also be an early bird senior special from 4 to 5 p.m. each Friday.
Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit cards are accepted.
Todd Diffenderfer, the fish fry’s coordinator and the athletic director for the St. William’s Dads Club, said that fish fry planning usually gets under way in January, and that two to three meetings are held beforehand.
“We have to get pricing for products and talk about the procedures, as well as start cleaning the kitchen prior to the fish fry,” Diffenderfer said.
“The day of a fish fry, we usually show up at noon or 1 p.m. and the first day is always hectic. Then everything falls into place.”
He added that the fish fry is put on mainly to celebrate the Lenten season and to bring the parish together, in addition to serving as a fund-raiser for the Dad’s Club and its youth programs.
“Our profits are used for uniforms for the CYO athletic programs,” Diffenderfer said. “We’ve always gone up in attendance because we put on a very good fry and the food quality is bar none. They come (from) as far away as Highland.”
The St. William fish fry menu offers a wide variety of choices besides fish, as a salad bar is also available for patrons, as well as pasta and pizza for children 12 and under.
A baked salmon or baked cod dinner is priced at $10 each for dine-in and carry-out, including a baked potato; while a fried shrimp dinner is also available for $9 for dine-in and carry-out, including French fries.
A fish dinner consisting of deep-fried Alaskan cod and French fries is priced at $8.75 for adults and $7.50 for seniors. A carry-out fish dinner is priced at $7.50.
All dinners come with coleslaw, a roll, butter, and a choice of coffee, tea or milk.
A children’s fish dinner with no coleslaw, or a pasta dinner or pizza dinner is $4 each for kids age 12 and under and free for children age 5 and under.
Sodas are also sold individually for $1.50, while the salad bar will cost $7 individually and $3 with a meal.
There will also be a bake sale held at each fish fry, complete with pies, cakes and cookies. These items are sold by the church’s youth group to benefit expenses for a retreat in Appalachia, Penn.
For more information and a full menu, visit the St. William’s Dads Club website at www.saintwilliam.net.
ST. PATRICK PARISH, WHITE LAKE
George Goeddeke, Grand Knight for the St. Patrick Parish Knights of Columbus Council, said St. Patrick Parish of White Lake, located at 9086 Hutchins Street, is in its fifth year of hosting a fish fry that it feeds about 1,000 people every Friday.
The fish fry will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays until April 15. It began a week ago, on Ash Wednesday, March 9.
“We put a tarp, tables and chairs out in the gym and also set a table up on stage,” Goeddeke said. “The prep work is intensive. We have 6 to 12 people come in a couple days before and we have 75 to 100 people working the day of the fry.”
Goeddeke said the St. Patrick fish fry generates $30,000 to $40,000 during the Lenten season, which goes toward the Knights of Columbus to give to local charities, including the St. Louis Center, Coats For Kids and Right To Life.
“We volunteer our time and it’s been pretty stable,” he said.
Goeddeke added that Denny Behen, the previous owner of the Bogie Lake Golf Course, previously held fish fries at the course before retiring and starting them at St. Patrick with his special recipe.
Prices range from $9 for adults, $8 for seniors over 62, and $5 for children age 10 and under.
The menu includes baked and fried North Atlantic Icelandic cod, as well as French fries, baked potatoes and coleslaw.
“The cod is top-quality; we don’t spare any price,” Goeddeke said.
A fish sandwich with lettuce and cheddar cheese is $8, while macaroni and cheese is $5.
St. Patrick will also have a soup of the day, deserts and beverages available at the fish fry, including soda for $1, beer and wine for $3, and bottled wine for $10.
ST. MARY PARISH, MILFORD
St. Mary, Our Lady of the Snows Parish at 1955 Commerce Road in Milford will be holding its annual all-you-can-eat Lenten fish fry every Friday during the Lenten season from 5 to 8 p.m. until April 15.
John Rodgers of the Knights of Columbus said the St. Mary Parish has been hosting a fish fry for about 27 years.
“Each Friday requires about 120 man hours, with 7 to 11 guys working from 4 to 8 p.m.,” he said.
Prices are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for children age 6-16, and $20 for a family. Children under 6 eat for free.
The fish fry will offer deep-fried and baked fish, baked potatoes, fries, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and a dinner roll, in addition to coffee, tea, milk and juice.
Proceeds from the fish fry go to benefit St. Mary’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which then donates the funds to its favorite charitable causes.
MULTI-LAKES CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
According to Barry Anderson of the Multi-Lakes Conservation Association, the organization has been offering fish fries every Friday for 60 years, except for Thanksgiving weekend and between Christmas and New Years — and if the Fourth of July falls on a Friday.
The organization is located at 3860 Newton Road in Commerce Township.
The fish fry is open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with prices ranging from $8 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, and $5.50 for children age 5 to 12.
The Multi-Lakes fish fry menu consists of fried or baked fish, broasted chicken, a baked potato, fries, vegetables and macaroni and cheese.
There is also a salad bar available, as well as corn bread, rolls and butter, and coffee.
“We run with five different crews with hourly and volunteer prep people,” Anderson said. “All volunteer kitchen crews work the weekly fish fry. Our members work for hours to reduce their annual dues.
“The fish fry does contribute to the daily operation of our facility and conservation,” Anderson said, adding that the Multi-Lakes fish fries are holding steady when it comes to patronage.
OUR LADY OF THE LAKES/ST. DANIEL
The Pope John Paul XXIII Council of the Knights of Columbus will hold a fish fry on Fridays from 5:30 to 8 p.m. until May 20, before it stops for the summer and starts up again in September.
The council consists of members of Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes and the St. Daniel parishes and is located at 5660 Maybee Road in Clarkston.
Walter Cempura, the council’s membership director, said the council has been holding the fish fries for about 5 years.
“We have five teams of 5-plus people each for 4 to 5 hours, including cooking and cleaning up,” Cempura said. “The last couple years, we’ve brought more people in, but because of the economy, turnout is about even.”
Cempura said he doesn’t know how much is raised during a fish fry, but that the proceeds go to the Knights of Columbus.
Prices are $9 for adults, including an all-you-can-eat meal with broiled or fried fish, red potatoes, fries and green beans; while a children’s chicken dinner is also available for $5.
VFW POST NO. 4156, WHITE LAKE
Allan Conway of VFW Post No. 4156 at 321 Union Lake Road in White Lake Township said the post hosts a fish fry every Friday all year long, except on holidays.
“It takes about 24 to 48 man hours per week. We generated about a $500 to $600 a month profit last year,” he said.
The fish fry is offered from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, with prices starting at $8 for an adult and $7 for an all-you-can-eat meal with fish, a choice of two sides including baked potatoes, fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and cottage cheese.
A chicken, shrimp or fish basket is also available with fries for $5, and rolls and butter are also offered.
Coffee, soda and alcoholic beverages are also served.
Proceeds go toward the post’s general fund to support its causes, ranging from the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital to the VFW National Home for Children.
Conway said that patronage is down because of the economy, but he hopes the post can switch its classic car cruise night from Monday to Friday to increase patronage.