My limited experience with Lent began as a young newlywed. I was determined to be true to my husband’s Catholic faith, especially during Lent, a season celebrated with absolutely no fanfare by my Baptist ancestors. Our first year of marriage we lived in a little duplex apartment in Moscow, Idaho while my husband was in graduate school. I didn’t know any Catholics in town but when Lent rolled around I dutifully prepared to observe meatless Friday meals.

The first week I served tuna casserole. Good so far.

The next week I prepared roast chicken. My husband didn’t say much, just looked at me over the drumstick with a confused expression.

On successive weeks I alternated chicken and proposed tuna casserole. I say “proposed” because every time I said, “Oh honey, I thought I’d make Tuna Casserole tonight,” he would respond with something like, “You don’t  have to do that. It’s Friday. Why don’t we go out and have bean burritos?” Who could resist an invitation like that?

This continued throughout Lent that first year and for the next few years as well. Chicken and “proposed” tuna casserole were our standby Friday night meals. As it turned out, we both learned something from those Lenten sacrifices.

It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the real reason we ate out so much during Lent was because my husband hated tuna casserole. It reminded him of the one can version cooked by his mom.

After overhearing me share a chicken recipe with a friend, my husband finally figured out my affection for fowl. I thought meatless Fridays meant no RED meat, and chicken, therefore, was an acceptable Lenten alternate. Like fish, only with feathers.

Funny postscript to this story: my son’s favorite meal is chicken schnitzel, chicken breasts pounded flat, lightly breaded and cooked in butter. He calls it “Flat Chicken.” I once asked him why he liked it so much. His reply, “Because it tastes like fish.” Good Catholic boy.

P.P.S. – My fellow Catholic Gene Editors asked me to post this story and to add my tuna casserole recipe. I didn’t think this would be a problem until I realized that that the recipe probably joined the leftovers in the garbage. Instead, I offer a similar version adapted from a recipe in one of my mother-in-law’s Slovenian cookbooks.Enjoy!

Noodle-Tuna Casserole

1 package egg noodles
1 or 2 cans tuna, drained
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
handful diced celery
pinch celery salt
1 cup grated cheese
crushed potato chips

Cook the noodles and drain. Butter a casserole dish. In a large bowl, mix noodles, tuna, soup, celery, celery salt and grated cheese. Place mixture in casserole dish and top with crushed potato chips. Bake uncovered at 350 until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Adapted from a recipe in Pots and Pans, Hermine Dicke, ed. (Joliet, Illinois: Slovenian Women’s Union of America, 1982).

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