A revolting meal – un pasto rivoltante

People are funny when it comes to food. Some people are extremely fussy about what they will eat, while others will try anything. Growing up, my five older sisters and I were expected to eat EVERYTHING on our plates. Refusing to eat something was NOT an option. When my Mom served something particularly odious, like steamed cabbage, I had to wash it down with several glasses of milk. Kids today are catered to. I know of several children who dictate to their parents what they will and will not eat (and in one case, even WHAT TIME they will eat).

Thanks to my parents’ insistent training, I will eat most anything now, although I can do without brussel sprouts or eggplant. However, I once had a VERY challenging food experience that I’ll always remember.

It was back in 2004 when my wife and I visited our youngest son who was stationed at Aviano, Italy at the time. We hadn’t seen our son since he enlisted in the Air Force in 2001 and it was our first trip to Europe, so we were excited. While in Italy, we all took a couple of side trips via train to Venice and to Rome. Both cities were amazing to see.

While we were in Rome, we stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch. The menu was entirely in Italian so the three of us felt a little helpless. However, I did spot an entrée on the menu to the effect of “something-linguine-something-calamaro-something.” Hmm, I certainly liked fried calamari. OK, I’ll have me some of that linguine and squid, I confidently told the secretly-amused waiter. As I remember it, my wife and son spotted pizza on the menu and settled for that. Cowards! Twenty-minutes later, the server brought out our plates. What?!?!? Sitting in front of me was a plate full of linguine covered in some kind of DISGUSTING-looking black sauce. It turned out the dish was linguine and squid served in a sauce made with the squid’s own jet-black ink (see photo for example). Yuch! Well, I ordered it, so I ate it. It actually didn’t taste all that bad, but the sight of it and the idea of eating squid ink just revolted me. It was a meal that I will always remember.

What was the most alarming thing you ever ate?

Well, all things work together for good and eating the linguine in black squid ink sauce helped me better appreciate “normal” food. Thank you, Lord, for taking care of us and providing for us!

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

Postscript I: Writing this post reminded me of another challenging dish, which I learned about and tried when I was researching my Polish heritage. We’ll visit that one another time.

Postscript II: You can blame this post and the queasy feeling in your stomach on brother Slim Jim at The Domain for Truth who somehow motivated me into revisiting this black memory.

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Catkins and clams! What a combo!

If you have a yard to take care of then you know it’s a significant amount of work. Up here in the Northeast Rust Belt, it takes A LOT of work to get the yard back into shape after the ravages of Winter.

This past Saturday, I worked ALL DAY out on the yard. After mowing the front yard, I picked up where I left off previously doing the edging around the bushes and flower garden. I then hooked up a gutter-cleaning wand gizmo I had recently ordered from Amazon to my heavy-duty, high-powered Husqvarna leaf blower. Many of you can remember me whining about all the fallen oak tree leaves that I must clean up every November. Well, in June the gutters become clogged up with the “catkins” that fall from the oaks. Catkins? Catkins (photo left) are those brown, stringy tassels that hang from oaks (technically they’re “spent” male flowers whose purpose is to shed pollen that is carried by the wind to female flowers, which ideally then develop into acorns). When the gutters fill up with catkins (photo middle), as well as my neighbor’s maple tree “helicopter seeds” (i.e., samaras), the gutter downspouts become clogged when it rains and the rainwater subsequently seeps over the gutters down into our basement. Not a pleasant situation, believe me. It’s happened many times in the past. I normally climb up on the roof and blow out the gutters with a handheld blower, but going up on the roof is an increasingly risky proposition for an old guy like myself. My bright idea was to blow the debris out of the gutters while standing on the ground using the leaf blower and wand gizmo rather than climbing up on the roof.

Well, I was able to successfully patch together the wand gizmo to the leaf blower (using some duct tape of course), but it only did a so-so job. The catkins gather together in clumps like mini-tumbleweeds inside the gutters and often become lodged against the gutter brackets. Oh, well. It’s better than nothing. I think I’ll still have to get up on the roof periodically after all.

So, here comes the good part, friends! After finishing all of my outdoor chores, I was whipped and REALLY looking forward to a relaxing evening. My wife had a hankering for some shrimp, so I drove to the Lobster Trap seafood store, which is less than two miles from our house. While I was there, I also picked up a dozen wild-caught, littleneck clams.  🙂  🙂  🙂

There’s few edibles in this world as good as a dozen steamed clams. What? You’ve never prepared them yourself? It’s easy. Add about 1-inch of water to a 3-quart saucepan. Scrub the clams with a dish towel and rinse and add them to the pan. Turn heat to High. When water begins to boil, reduce heat to Medium-Low and cover. The clams should all open up after 5 minutes. Remove the clams from the water (photo right) and serve with melted butter accented with several dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Delish! But wait! There’s still more to this delectable feast. Carefully strain the water and natural clam juices from the pan through a cloth or paper towel into a large ceramic cup. Add a small pat of butter and a dash of Red Hot and reheat in the microwave until the butter is melted. Voila! A delicious cup of clam broth!

That, my friends, was a great finish to a very busy day! Wally, I really wish you were up here to enjoy those clams and clams broth with me! Yes, we can thank the Lord for life’s simple pleasures!

Poland’s National Dish: Bigos aka “Hunter’s Stew”

Back in August, I wrote about my very long prodigal journey which included studying my ethnic Polish heritage. See here. In that post, I promised that I would share a couple of Polish recipes that I had mastered. I passed along the first one, Kluski i Kapusta (Noodles and Cabbage), in October. See here.

Now it’s time for my second recipe and it’s a grand one; Bigos aka “Hunter’s Stew.” Bigos is a staple of Polish kitchens during the Winter months and is considered Poland’s national dish. Every Polish cook and babcia has their own variation and here’s mine, which started with a recipe from “The New Polish Cuisine” by Chef Michael J. Baruch. I’ve tasted the Bigos of many Polish chefs but it doesn’t get any better than the recipe below. Get out your cutting board. This one takes some prep time, but it’s well worth it.

Bigos

Ingredients:

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 lb. stew beef (or substitute cubed pork)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green cabbage, decored and sliced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 lb. sliced mushrooms (Poles are very fussy about their mushrooms, but you can use common white mushrooms)
  • 16 oz. canned sauerkraut, drained (rinsing is optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco sauce
  • 2 dashes Maggi liquid seasoning (if not available use Knorr Liquid Seasoning)
  • 5 cups (40 oz.) beef broth
  • 16 oz. canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red cooking wine
  • 6 oz. beer
  1. Using a very large pot (e.g., 16-quart Dutch Oven) on medium heat, cook 4 strips of bacon until crispy. Remove bacon leaving grease. Chop bacon and set aside. Add kielbasa to pot, cook and turn for a few minutes until slightly browned on both sides. With slotted spoon remove kielbasa and set aside. Remove all grease except 2 tbsp. and set aside. Coat stew beef with flour. Add stew beef to pot, cook and turn for a few minutes until slightly browned on both sides. Remove beef and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tbsp. of reserved bacon/kielbasa grease back to bottom of pot. Add garlic and onion. Stir and cook a few minutes until onion is slightly tender. Do not brown. Add cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and sauerkraut. Stir vegetables often for around 4 minutes until only slightly tender. Do not brown. Add salt, black pepper, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, paprika, cayenne pepper, caraway seeds, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and Maggi. Stir for 1 minute.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and reserved meats and stir until tomato paste is completely blended. Allow contents to come to a boil then cover and lower heat to low/warm. Simmer on low/warm with only a very slight boil for at least 6 hours. Many Polish cooks simmer their Bigos for a couple of days before serving.

Enjoy with sliced rye bread. Serves 8-10.

Smacznego! Ach! So good!

…What? Say it ain’t so! My very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce!

There’s a little bit of a back story to this tragic news.

Back in the early-1980s, we were living in our first house, which was located in the Greater Rochester suburb of Henrietta, New York. The town was notoriously known for its strip malls (and strip clubs) and very haphazard and underregulated zoning. On the corner of Calkins Road and West Henrietta Road was Al’s Meadows Motel, one of those flea-bitten establishments from a previous era that begged every passerby to wonder who would actually choose to spend a night there of their own accord? On the same property was the Al’s Meadows Lounge and Grill, an old-school bar and burger joint. The best thing you could say about the establishment was that it was “unpretentious.” Oh, yeah, and there was the chicken wing sauce!

A friend from work who lived close by and I were taking some night classes together back then, and several times on the way home we stopped at Al’s for chicken wings. The wings themself were nothing to write home about. They were actually on the small side and regularly overcooked, but the sauce was absolutely delicious with a noticeable tang of celery salt and unlike any wing sauce I had ever tasted (my mouth is watering as I type). The lounge/restaurant also sold the sauce in bottles and I became a regular customer. It was especially good on any kind of chicken and on Zweigles white hot dogs (see here). Our two boys grew up on the sauce and the youngest one, especially, took a shine to it.

The years went by and we eventually moved out of Henrietta. Maybe about twelve years ago, Al’s Meadows Motel and the adjoining lounge/restaurant were torn down and to make way for a gas station. However, Al’s sons owned the Southtown Beverages Drive-Thru business, which was a bit farther north on West Henrietta Road, and they carried on the Meadows Lounge and Grill legacy by bottling and selling Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Year after year, I made the trek back to Henrietta to buy a couple of bottles of the hot sauce.

This past October, our youngest son came up from Texas for our family trip to the Big Apple and of course he took a solo drive to Southtown Beverages to buy a couple of bottles of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce to take back home with him. But when he returned to our house, he broke the bad news: Southtown had stopped making the sauce because of low demand. Argh! If I had known, I would have stocked up.

So here I am in the photo above with my very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Ach! When it’s gone, I’m going to rinse out the bottle and display it on the mantle down in my man cave as another reminder that this world has its temporal pleasures, but it’s all passing away.

 

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The former Al’s Meadows Motel and Meadows Lounge and Grill were located at 4200 West Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY. The proprietor was Alphonse “Papa Al” Alaimo.

Polish Recipe #1: Kluski i Kapusta aka Noodles and Cabbage

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my decade-long excursion deep into my Polish heritage. See here. I promised then that I would share a couple of hearty Polish recipes that I’ve become proficient at once the weather got cooler, so seeing as we’re more than half-way through October, it’s time for the first one; Kluski i Kapusta (Noodles and Cabbage).

Noodles and cabbage is a Polish favorite. It’s probably the #1 national comfort dish of Poland. Not a big fan of steamed cabbage? Don’t worry, neither am I. But the cabbage is actually a great complement to the other ingredients in this recipe. This dish definitely has an Old World, European flavor. Every Polish cook has their own variation of Kluski i Kapusta and here’s my spin on it that I’ve tweaked over the years.

Kluski i Kapusta (Cabbage & Noodles)

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 1 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced or cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 head of green cabbage, cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill finely chopped
  • 3 dashes Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco
  • 1 lb. kluski noodles (authentic kluski noodles can usually be found in the pasta section of most larger supermarkets, especially in the Northeast. Substitute any other type of noodles you prefer if not available.)

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Coat bottom of large pot with cooking spray. Place pot on burner and turn heat to medium-medium high. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Remove bacon. Add kielbasa to pot and brown in bacon grease for 2-3 minutes. Remove kielbasa. Leave 2 tbsp. of grease drippings in pot, discard the rest. Add garlic and onion to pot. Cook several minutes until onion is softened. Add cabbage, chicken broth, salt, pepper, caraway seeds, dill, hot sauce, and kielbasa. Crumble 4 strips of bacon and add. Stir. Cook 20 minutes stirring every couple of minutes.

Turn heat to low. Cover pot. Simmer for 3 hours until cabbage is completely wilted, stirring occasionally. Ah, the aroma!

In separate pot, boil kluski noodles according to package directions. Drain. Combine noodles with other ingredients. Transfer to large serving bowl and top with remaining 4 strips of bacon, crumbled.

Serves quite a few. 🙂

Smacznego! (Polish for “Bon appétit”) 🍴

“The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo”: A thoroughly delightful story!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my “Polish phase,” when I immersed myself in my Polish heritage (see here). That recent writing trip down memory lane got me thinking about things Polish once again, so I checked out our local library’s online catalog and spotted the novel, “The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo” and put a hold on it. Even better, I subsequently discovered Amazon offers a Kindle version free to Prime members (see here).

The Best Polish Restaurant in Buffalo
By William Kowalski
Orchard Street Books, 2017, 216 pages

Plot

It’s 1908, and sixteen-year-old Aniela and her two sisters and mother are on a ship to “Ameryka” to escape their difficult existence in partitioned Western Poland, where the Prussian-German occupiers oppress the Polish inhabitants and the menfolk of the family mistreat their women. They arrive in New York City and make their way by train to Buffalo where there is, they have heard, a large Polish community. The women scrape to eek out an existence as cleaning women for Buffalo’s wealthy citizens, but they still earn more than they could ever dream of in their small farming village in Poland. Aniela eventually marries, has children, faces tragedy, and sets a course for her family by establishing a bakery in the city, which is eventually transformed into a popular restaurant serving Polish favorites.

Interspersed with the chapters describing Aniela’s struggle in the early-twentieth century, are chapters set in 2015, which focus on her forty-five-year-old great-grandson, Iggy, who manages the restaurant she started. The Poles moved out of the city to the suburbs long ago and the ethnic restaurant has seen a steady decline in customers to the point where it’s no longer feasible to remain open. Iggy wrestles with the inevitable. By closing the restaurant, he feels he’s betraying his great-grandmother, his family, and his Polish heritage. But he’s the only one who seems to care. The rest of the family eagerly anticipates any money they can make from the sale of the restaurant building while Buffalo’s Polish population generally stopped caring about their heritage decades ago.

Comments

Bravo! I don’t read fiction that often, but I was delighted by this novel. The author captured the hopes and fears of the late-19th, early-20th century immigrants from Poland. Buffalo’s  burgeoning Polish community on the city’s East Side allowed the immigrants to establish a stake in their new homeland with the strong support of their fellow Poles. It’s estimated that 380,000 Poles resided in the Greater Buffalo area by 1923. Kowalski interjects a lot of Polish words and names of Buffalo Polish landmarks to give this story a very authentic feel.

Iggy’s despairing story juxtaposes poignantly with Aniela’s optimism and determination. The old aspirations that motivated the Podbielski family for four generations had finally run dry.

During my “Polish phase,” I often made the one-hour trip to Buffalo to check out the old East Side Polish neighborhood. Most of the Poles began moving out to Cheektowaga and other suburbs after World War II. What’s left is a mammoth, sprawling area of urban decay with a declining number of Polish institutions (churches, social clubs, taverns) still hanging on by a thread. You wouldn’t want to walk this area during the day let alone at night. It’s actually an amazingly decrepit area to drive through. There’s street after street after street where every third or fourth home is boarded up. Buffalo’s economy flatlined when the steel industry and other heavy manufacturing moved out and has never rebounded.*

There are still a couple of Polish restaurants in the blue-collar suburb of Cheektowaga owned by the Kutas family (they once owned the legendary Warsaw Inn on Broadway), but the futures of those establishments are less-than-tenuous. A meal of kielbasa, pierogies, golabki, and kapusta just doesn’t appeal to 5th-generation Polish American millennials. See the two websites below:

https://www.polishvillaunion.com/

http://polishvilla.org/

I’ve eaten at both locations and the fresh (not smoked) kielbasa, the barometer of any Polish eatery, is only so-so. Feeling brave? Ask for a large bowl of Czernina aka duck blood soup. Yes, you read that correctly! In Poland, it’s served infrequently, but over here it became a novelty staple at Polish restaurants.

As much as I enjoyed this novel, I’m reminded that no one can find fulfillment in their ethnicity or by any other temporal pursuit or status. The only lasting fulfillment comes from salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The author refers several times to Aniela’s Catholic faith, which is a mixture of religious legalism, ritual, and Old World superstitions. Not much has changed in that respect for most Polish Americans.

* Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was appalled by the economic miasma of Western New York when he visited Buffalo and Rochester as part of his 2016 campaign. In July 2017, President Trump stated that Upstate (including Western) New York was beyond any economic hope and that everyone should move out and go to where the jobs are. See here. Don’t worry, President Trump. Western New Yorkers have been moving out of this highly-taxed, economic disaster area at a significant rate for the last 30 years.

Just in time for summer – New England Clam Dip!

Yes, blogging friends, summer is here, and I’m thrilled to be able to once again pass along the recipe for that summertime culinary delight, delicious New England Clam Dip! Break out the wavy potato chips and enjoy!

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Thank you, Lord, for delicious food, all in moderation of course!

An accoutrement staple of backyard summer dining is potato chips and dip. One of my family’s favorite chip dips used to be a New England clam dip manufactured by a local cheese company named “Heluva Good” of all things. For some reason, Heluva Good stopped making its clam dip in the early aughts (2000s). Some said it was because of new FDA regulations.

My hankering for clam dip grew and grew until I finally started searching online for a clam dip recipe that was similar to Heluva Good’s. I found the one below several years ago. It’s a pretty close facsimile and very easy to make. Any time we serve it to guests they always rave about it. I could eat a whole bowl of clam dip with wavy chips in a single sitting all by myself, but my…

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Rochester, N.Y. may be just a shadow of its former self, but we still have the best hot dogs in the U.S.A.!

Some cities are known nation-wide for their distinctive food items; Buffalo has its chicken wings, Philadelphia has its cheese steak sandwich, Boston its baked beans, New Orleans its jambalaya, etc., etc.

Here in humble Rochester, New York, the former “World’s Imaging Center,” we’re noted for two culinary delights; the world famous Garbage Plate, which I previously posted about here, and Zweigle’s hot dogs.

Hot dogs? Yup, Rochester is known throughout the nation for having the very best hot dog; Zweigle’s pop-open, red and white hot dogs.

C. Wilhelm and Josephine Zweigle opened their Rochester butcher shop in 1880. The company they founded eventually cornered the local hot dog market. Although Zweigle’s also offers hots without natural casing (i.e., “skinless”), it’s pop-open variety are the best-selling. The company makes both red and white hots, with the cured reds having a more traditional, smoked flavor and the uncured whites having a milder flavor (they were originally inspired by German Weisswurst). The quintessential whites were first introduced by the company in 1925. See the Wiki article here.

Rochester may be the only city in the U.S. where a customer ordering a generic “hot dog” at a food stand will be asked with a tinge of annoyance whether they want a red or white, thanks to Zweigle’s. I preferred the traditional reds growing up, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I crave the milder whites. A Zweigle’s pop-open white with some chopped onion and Rochester meat hot sauce. Wow! My mouth is watering as I type.

But whether it’s a red or a white, a perfectly-spiced, Zweigle’s pop-open hot cooked on the grill is delicious beyond description. Keep your surf and turf, prime rib and lobster tail dinner and give me a grilled Zweigle’s dog every time.

We’re so spoiled up here in Rochester when it comes to hot dogs that we won’t even eat one unless it’s a Zweigle’s. Rochesterians who move out-of-state because of the sky-high taxes and lack of jobs are notorious for asking their relatives and friends to ship them a box of Zweigle’s. But you can order some for yourself to be shipped anywhere in the U.S. from Calabresella’s New York Style Deli (see here).

https://zweigles.com/

Three for Thursday: Chick-fil-A, Hybels, and revision of book list

Chick-fil-A in Rochester

For months, the media here in Rochester, N.Y. was buzzing about the opening of the area’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant and today is the big day! The fast-food franchise heightened the buzz by offering fifty-two Chick-fil-A dinners spread out over one year to the first 100 customers. People began lining up yesterday despite the light sprinkles and chilly, forty-degree temperatures. The restaurant benevolently opened their doors to the “queuers” during the day yesterday, but required that they stay outside all last night (photo above). When the restaurant finally opened its doors this morning at 6:30 a.m., the 100 weary folks received their digital card pre-loaded with one year’s worth (52) of meals. Chick-fil-A will be doing extremely brisk business until Rochesterians get a chance to satisfy their curiosity. A few thoughts:

  • Chick-fil-A, was founded by Southern Baptist, S. Truett Cathy, in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946 and has grown to over 2200 locations. The restaurants are very unusual in that they are closed on Sundays, reflecting the religious convictions of Cathy. The company became embroiled in controversy in 2011 and 2012 when corporate officers publicly supported opposition to proposed same-sex marriage legislation. In 2012, the company reversed its position and decided not to actively oppose same-sex marriage.
  • The fact that the opening of a fast food franchise was such a HUGE media sensation in our town speaks about the otherwise very dismal economic conditions here in Western New York, where a remarkably long list of businesses have either shut down or migrated to the South over the last thirty years.
  • It’s amazing that 100 adults would camp in line in the elements for over 24 hours for a chance at 52 chicken sandwiches. Jesus Christ offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with Almighty God, but most people – lost and blinded souls – could not care less.

Bill Hybels

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I heard on the news yesterday that Bill Hybels just resigned as influential pastor of the Chicago-area Willow Creek Community megachurch after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought forward by multiple women. Hybels, along with Rick Warren (and with input from marketing guru, Peter Drucker), pioneered the “seeker sensitive,” church-growth movement beginning way back in the 1980s. The idea was to attract unbelievers to church service by turning it into an entertainment experience. Doctrinal teaching was toned WAY down in favor of Christian rock music, light shows, and feel-good sermons. I’m all for keeping up with the times in some respects, otherwise we’d all be driving buggies to church like the Amish, but as we saw with Hybels and Warren, sometimes the push to be “culturally relevant” leads to becoming spiritually irrelevant and even spiritually dangerous. Spurred on by the #Me Too movement, many women across the nation are now coming forward with allegations of abuse. Prior to his resignation, Hybels claimed the allegations against him were “flat-out lies.”


Book titles linked to reviews

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At the suggestion of brother blogger, Slim Jim, I’ve revised my long list of books which compare Roman Catholicism with Scripture by hyperlinking book titles to the reviews that I’ve written over the past three years. If you go to the “Books” tab (see here), you’ll find that 97 of the 346 titles are in bold face. If you click on those 97 titles, you’ll be directed to my corresponding review. Thanks for the suggestion, Jimmy!

Lent is no match for Super Rodent!

Most of the topics I write about on this blog are serious matters involving spiritual life and death, but there are occasions when I come across something that can only be categorized as sadly comical. Case in point:

This year, the Catholic church’s Lenten season runs from Wednesday, February 14th to Thursday, March 29th and Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on all six of the Fridays during that span under the threat of committing mortal sin, which they are told will doom them to hell. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of what actually constitutes “meat” can get a little tricky as I alluded to in the infamous Chicken in a Biskit post (see here.)

Well, now we have another very strange twist to this rule regarding abstention from meat during Lent.

A few days ago, I was listening to the 2/21/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show. Moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders, were discussing Lenten abstinence restrictions and Anders unflinchingly mentioned that Venezuelan Catholics are allowed to eat the meat of a capybara on Fridays. Capybara? What’s that? Well, it turns out that capybara (photo above) are the largest living rodent in the world, ranging anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds full grown and they like to hang out near or in water. They are a dietary staple of Central America and some say they taste like pork with a slightly fishy accent. As the tale goes, Padre Sojo, Venezuela’s most influential Catholic cleric at the time, traveled to Rome in 1794 and petitioned pope Leo XII to allow his countrymen to eat the meat of the capybara during Lent because, he argued, the animal spent so much time in the water that it was more like a fish than a warm-blooded mammal. Remember, fish are okay to eat on Fridays during Lent, but not the meat from mammals or birds. Sojo’s absurd argument evidently made an impression on the credulous pope because he granted his request and actually issued a Papal Bull decreeing that Venezuelans were free to eat capybara during Lent without incurring a mortal sin.

So Venezuelan Catholics can gorge themselves on capybara burgers on Lenten Fridays with an absolutely clear conscience, but if an American Catholic takes even one bite of a Big Mac, they are doomed to Hell forever!

But this sinner who was freed from the chains of Catholicism and is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a hypothetical question for my Catholic friends. Let’s suppose an American Catholic travels down to Venezuela on business during Lent. He’s walking the streets of Caracas on a Friday at noon and smells the wonderful aroma of barbecue in the air. In a few minutes, he discovers the source of the olfactory bliss; a sidewalk food vendor who beckons him over to try some of his smokey barbecued capybara. The American, mouth watering, declines with noticeable regret, saying in broken Spanish that he is prohibited from eating meat on Friday during Lent. But the vendor reassures him that the pope himself declared it was okay to eat capybara in Venezuela during Lent and another native walking by confirms the information. The American then hungrily orders a double-plateful of barbecued capybara and eats his fill. The next day, the American begins his journey back to the U.S., but his plane crashes and all aboard perish. Which now brings us to our question: Did the American Catholic go to hell for eating capybara on a Lenten Friday because he was still under the jurisdiction of his American bishop or did Leo XII’s papal bull cover all the bases?

Catholic friend, if you ever get tired of spinning in Catholicism’s legalistic hamster (another rodent) wheel, turn to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ to save you by faith in Him alone.

Is Catholicism a false religion? Are Catholics saved?
https://www.gotquestions.org/catholicism.html

Postscript: Some may object to my interjection of humor in this discussion, but folks, seriously, I couldn’t have come up with this “capybara dispensation” in my wildest dreams.