Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday abstinence rules in Canada (and a recipe)

One of the things about living in America's hat (aka Canada) is that we suffer from Eagleland Osmosis. In Catholic matters it's even worse. Almost everything comes from the US. The hymnals, the CCD materials, the missals, etc. And none of them mention that anything might be different in Canada. To a large extent this is probably a good thing because in my experience, where Canada differs from the US in things Catholic, Canada takes the wimpy route. (E.g. holy days of obligation, Canada has only TWO, Christmas and Mother of God, which occur exactly a week apart, and in some years they both occur on Sunday, meaning that Canadians have no obligation in those years to ever do anything other than Sunday Mass. WIMPY.)

I knew this, but I was still surprised to read the following in the bulletin one Sunday before Ash Wednesday:
Friday Abstinence Rules in Canada
While the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter [the religious community that runs the parish] observes the more traditional practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays of the year, commonly called the 'Fish Friday', and also encourages you to observe this older practice, the following rules apply in Canada (rules which differ slightly from the USA):
--S.29 of the 'Ordo' of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops specifies that all Fridays of the year are special days of abstinence from meat in Canada. This includes the Fridays of Lent; however, they also state that Canadian Catholics may substitute 'special acts' of charity or piety on these days, even in Lent (except for Ash Wed. and Good Fri., when fasting and abstinence is required).
To restate: The Canadian bishops' conference makes no distinction between Lent and the rest of the year vis a vis abstinence. So if you're in Canada and you're not abstaining the rest of the year, there's no reason officially at least why you should change that during Lent, and you're under no obligation to do so.

In conclusion, Canada is wimpy yet again. :C

Of course there's the "special acts" qualifier; in the heady and optimistic past, the bishops seem to have been living in a dream world wherein all lay Catholics were just itching to apply awesome creative penances and perform superheroic acts of mercy and prayer and were somehow being held back by the idea that all you had to do was abstain from meat. "Ok, we're removing that rule! Let's see what you got, laity! Go for it!" The laity collectively went for it. Where "it" is "a hamburger." This is because the laity, being human, are very very good at hearing when they no longer have to do something difficult, but seemingly impossible to educate to start doing something difficult, much less to come up with their own difficult things to do.

Anyway. We try to keep meatless year round on Fridays. I'm always looking for more meatless recipes, and we did something tonight that was quite easy and also provided leftovers that can be easily spun into totally different meals.

African-Inspired Yams and Rice with Black-Eyed Peas and Peanut Sauce

I'm not going to insert a picture here because if you've ever seen a dish involving peanut sauce, you know what it looks like. Brown. And vaguely gross. Not even food stylists can truly make peanut sauce dishes look great; they try to trick you with neat bowls or splashing garnishes all over the place.
  • sweet potatoes or yams, sufficient to feed your family and have some leftover
  • rice ditto (or some other grain, or leave it out and just have it with the sweet potatoes)
  • one can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (or a similar amount cooked from dried beans)
  • one large can plum tomatoes in juice
  • one cup natural peanut butter
  • a splash of vinegar or citrus
  • nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and chile powder to taste--don't be shy
Preheat the oven to 400F and stick the yams in on a tray lined with foil (because those suckers ooze). Bake until the texture is how you want it, which depends mostly on how big the yams are and how soft you want them. Start checking with a fork or skewer at about the 40 minute mark.

Cook rice somehow. You know how to make rice, right? If you don't, look it up somewhere else. Or buy a rice cooker, because they are awesome. Especially if you make rice as often as we do.

Dump the plum tomatoes and their juice into a small pot. Roughly cut up the tomatoes with a fork and knife. Add the drained black eyed peas, the peanut butter, the vinegar, and the spices. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently. It will look horrendous at first until the peanut butter melts and melds with the other ingredients to form a smooth sauce. Then it will just look brown, lumpy and vaguely gross (as mentioned above). But it will taste amazing.

Let each individual combine some rice, some sweet potato and some sauce in a bowl. If you cooked them soft, the sweet potato will collapse into the sauce. The result will be gently sweet, warmly savory, creamy, and spicy.

This was inspired by several different sources but notably the idea of beans and sweet potatoes in Crescent Dragonwagon's Bean by Bean and the peanut sauce in Mollie Katzen's Simple Suppers.


  1. We abstain from meat on all Fridays. I would LOVE if the US bishops made it mandatory again, because I think it could really benefit Catholics. Come to think of it, I should pray for that specifically.

  2. This looks so good! Val is vegetarian, so I'm always on the prowl for ideas for good vegetarian meals. I'm going to add it to my recipe book. <3