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?

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.


Enchilada Pie aka “Mexican Lasagna”

Need a steaming hot dinner idea for a cold winter evening…

Mexican restaurants are all over the place these days, but back when I was a young teen in the early 70s, there was only one Mexican restaurant in the entire county and that was Taco Kid on Penfield Road. I developed a yen for Mexican after frequenting the Kid a few times.

When our family was first starting out, every Friday night was home-made taco night. It was cheap and delicious. Eventually, I got a little adventurous and bought a Mexican cookbook. One of my favorite recipes was enchilada pie. I don’t cook a lot, but when I do, enchilada pie (aka Mexican lasagna) is one of my “go to” staples. It’s easy, relatively healthy, and delicious. Enjoy!

Enchilada Pie

  • One 3.8 oz. can sliced black olives, chopped
  • One 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
  • One 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • Three green onions, chopped, including green stems
  • Two 10 oz. cans of MILD red enchilada sauce
  • 12 corn (not flour) tortillas
  • One 16 oz. can fat free refried beans
  • One 8 oz. package shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine olives, chiles, tomatoes, and onions in a bowl. Set aside.

Pour enchilada sauce in a bowl. Set aside.

Wrap four tortillas at a time in a wet paper towel and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Take one tortilla, dip completely in enchilada sauce, and place in a baking bowl. Spread on thin layer of refried beans. Spread on a spoonful of vegetable mixture. Top with cheese shreds. Repeat for each tortilla, building layer upon layer.

Bake enchilada pie for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cut in wedges, top with a dollop of sour cream. Serve with shredded lettuce on the side.

Buen provecho!

For variation, try adding chopped fresh cilantro, shreds of cooked chicken, a small amount of pickled jalapeno peppers, or cooked corn to the recipe. Don’t be afraid to douse each tortilla liberally in the sauce, which is why I specified two cans of sauce rather than one. If you skimp on the sauce, the pie will end up on the dry side. Stick with the MILD sauce. I like spicy food but the MEDIUM sauce is too spicy even for me. The refried bean paste also helps keep the pie moist. If a can of kidney beans or pinto beans was substituted in place of the refried beans, the pie would be too dry.

Rochester, NY: Home of the world-famous “Garbage Plate”!

My town, Rochester N.Y., was once a bustling, high-tech manufacturing center; the home of Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, Gleasons, and a couple of medium-sized GM plants. But as in many other Rust Belt cities, the manufacturing presence is pretty much history at this point. The largest employers are now the two hospital/health care systems and the Wegmans supermarket chain (company headquarters are located here), with a bunch of colleges, public school districts, and many low-paying service and retail companies bringing up the rear.

Rochester can’t boast about much these days, but it is home to the world famous “Garbage Plate” (see top photo). In fact, the city is currently in the midst of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the delectable dish.

What’s that? You ask what exactly is a Garbage Plate?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! Okay, okay. I apologize. Let me take a step back and explain this gourmet jewel to all of you unfortunate non-Rochesterians.

Well, way back in 1918, Greek immigrant, Alex Tahou (correctly pronounced tah-HOO although it’s generally pronounced as TAH-ho), opened his greasy spoon, Tahou’s Diner (later named, “Nick Tahou’s Hots,” in honor of his son), and at some point began serving a plate he called “hots and potats” consisting of two hot dogs over heaps of home fries and macaroni salad (or baked beans), all smothered with a grease-laden, ground beef-based hot sauce and topped with chopped raw onions and mustard and ketchup. Two hamburgers or cheeseburgers rather than hot dogs became another option later on. I had my first introduction to “hots and potats” in 1977 thanks to Duane “Big D” Hedman after we had worked a Saturday morning overtime shift at Kodak’s old Elmgrove Plant.

In the 1980s, college students kept coming into Nick’s and ordering “that dish with all the garbage on it,” so the plate was officially renamed “The Garbage Plate.”

Imitations sprang up all over town so the Tahous trademarked the “Garbage Plate” moniker in 1992, but most hot dog/hamburger/pizza joints in the area have their own alternate-named version of the plate.

Last night, the local Triple-A baseball franchise, the Rochester Red Wings, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Tahous and the Garbage Plate by renaming the team the “Plates” for one game and offering t-shirts and caps with the “Plates” logo. Yesterday morning, our eldest son sent me a last-minute email suggesting we should go the game. Argh! I knew the place was going to be packed, but any excuse for a father-son outing is a good thing. Traffic was torturously bumper-to-bumper as we neared Frontier Field stadium, but our son was driving so I was calmly relaxed. Once we finally made it inside, we immediately got in line at the team apparel store. We both ended up buying “Plates” caps, of course, to commemorate the historic event. We then went up to our seats and mostly shot the breeze rather than watch the minor league game. Stadium capacity is 13,500 and there weren’t many empty seats. By 8:30 pm, we had had enough and headed for the exit.

There’s not a lot going on in ROC city these days, but the locals take a lot of pride in Rochester’s contribution to international gourmet cuisine, the Garbage Plate! By the way, for those health-conscious readers, the plate comes in at around 1700 calories and 90 grams of fat; not exactly a meal my internist would recommend. But if I WERE to get a plate, my favorite combination is a white hot* and cheeseburger over mac salad and home fries, all smothered in meat hot sauce and topped with chopped raw onions, but please, ABSOLUTELY NO ketchup or mustard.

*”WHITE hot dogs?,” you ask? Ha! That’s a whole nother post, my non-Rochesterian friends!

Postscript: The 8/11/17 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the attendance for the “Plates” game was 13,281, the second-largest baseball crowd in Frontier Field’s 20 seasons.


Nick Tahou’s, the unpretentious home of the world famous, “Garbage Plate,” at 320 W. Main St, Rochester, NY., open 8:00 am – 8:00 pm, Mon.-Thurs. and 8:00 am – 12 midnight on Fri., closed on Sat. and Sun.


A long line of salivating Rochesterians as they anxiously anticipate an authentic “Garbage Plate” from the Nick Tahou’s stand at Frontier Field on Plate Night, August 10th, 2017
“Plates” regalia

Donuts Delite: Not much to brag about in Rochester, NY anymore, but we do have the best donuts in the USA!

Several decades ago, my hometown, Rochester, New York, boasted about being “The World’s Imaging Center” with Eastman Kodak and Xerox both running second and third shifts to keep up with demand. The two companies are now mere shadows of their former selves and Rochester doesn’t have much to brag on except for being one of the poorest cities per capita in the USA.

But one thing we do have are the best donuts in the entire country!

Back when I was a kid, my Dad often made the 1.5 mile trip to Donuts Delite at 1700 Culver Rd. and picked up a couple of dozen donuts for breakfast before we went to church on Sunday. They were the absolute best donuts in the world! The vanilla cream-filled were, hands-down, my favorite but all the varieties were easy on the palate.

The Malley family operated Donuts Delite from 1958 until 2005 when they decided to close the doors. People living on the northeast side of the city were heartbroken. After standing vacant for several years, the iconic, “I Like Ike”-era building faced demolition. But in 2010, Salvatore’s pizza-chain owner, Sam Fantauzzo, reopened Donuts Delite to the delight of all Rochesterians. Fantauzzo consulted closely with the Malleys to ensure the donuts were made precisely according to the family’s original specifications.

I don’t get to Donuts Delite often these days because we now live 11 miles away, but Sunday morning, my wife and I and our 5-year-old granddaughter made a special trip there for breakfast. The place is always packed, especially on weekend mornings. I ordered two large slices of breakfast pizza, a vanilla cream-filled donut for old time sake, and a cup of Joe. Oy vey! Not exactly diet fare but I was willing to make an exception. I took one of the pizza slices home for dinner and ordered three more vanilla cream-filleds “to go” as we headed out the door, two for my bride and one for me. Hey, I’m not driving all the way to Donuts Delite and coming home with just a single vanilla cream-filled in my gut.

Back a few years ago, when my parents were still alive and living down in Florida, everyone who made the trip down there to visit made sure to bring a dozen vanilla cream-filleds from Dunkin Donuts for my appreciative father. Yeah, they’re that good!

Just about every city and town has something or some place to brag about. Rochester isn’t what it used to be but we definitely do have the best donuts in the country at Donuts Delite.

Donuts Delite web site:

Stay tuned to this blog for a future write-up on another food item Rochester is noted for; the infamous Garbage Plate!

Just in time for summer – Clam dip!

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 arteries clog up at just the thought of it.

p.s. Heluva Good was headquartered in Sodus N.Y. but was bought out by food conglomerate HP Hood in 2004 and like most things in New York, production was eventually moved out of state. It’s also interesting that the slang term, “one hell of a…” is used to connote something that’s either very good or very bad. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says the phrase (or “one Devil of a…”) has its roots in the second half of the 1700s.

New England Clam Dip Recipe

  • 1 6.5 oz. can chopped clams
  • 1 6.5 oz. can minced clams
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese – allow to reach room temperature
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 and ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Red Hot or Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  1. Drain clams, reserving ¼ cup clam broth. Put drained clams aside.
  2. Mix cream cheese with hand-held electric mixer until smooth while adding clam broth, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, paprika, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Add clams and mix together with a spoon.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for six hours
  5. Sprinkle the top with some additional paprika before serving.