MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Jesus fish: Tish Desalvo boxes up another take-out order during St. John the Baptist’s Lenten fish fry.
But that leaves one enormous unanswered question: What would Jesus eat during Lent? Fried or baked fish?
their annual Lenten fish fry, St. Daniel/St. Matthew Academy, 214 Kinne
St., East Syracuse, has offered baked fish for the better part of 15
years. What started as a small fish fry for parishioners of the church
and students of the elementary school has become an event rejoiced by
believers of all faiths, with the baked haddock nearly becoming more
popular than its traditional fried counterpart over the last few years.
definitely had the highest turnout for the baked this year,” says Mary
Ansbrow, a parishioner of St. Matthew’s Church who, for seven years
along with husband Jim, has organized the annual feast. “A lot of
people have mentioned ordering it baked for health reasons while others
just want a little variety.”
they serve 300 to 350 dinners per week and that the fried vs. baked
fish order is split about 50/50, with fried taking a slight lead. “Some
people are hesitant to try the baked because they know what fried fish
tastes like and don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken,”
continues Ansbrow. “And there are many people who flat-out refuse to
try it. But a lot that do, refuse to go back to fried fish.”
MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Holy reelers: St. Daniel/St. Matthew Academy volunteer Emmaleigh Enderle gets ready to serve a pair of baked fish dinners at the East Syracuse school’s fish fry.
of their fish is haddock, and a baked fish dinner, paired with potatoes
and steamed vegetables for, as Ansbrow says, “a completely healthy
meal,” costs $8.50 ($7.50 for seniors). For those who do not want to
break their pledge of allegiance to fried fish, a dinner, sided with
french fries and choice of cole slaw or applesauce, runs $7.50 ($6.50
for seniors); a fried fish sandwich with fries costs $6.50 ($6
seniors). Also on the menu are shrimp dinners ($8.50; $7.50 seniors)
and cocktails ($5), while clam dinners and sandwiches are priced in the
same way as fried fish and all come with two sides.
fish is not considered a meat, it seems to be the most consumed meal on
Fridays during Lent,” notes Ansbrow. “But fish are one of those foods
that people either really like, or won’t eat at all.”
you can’t stomach the idea of aquatic fodder swimming around in your
belly, don’t worry. St. Daniel/St. Matthew has other non-meat meals: a
mac and cheese or spaghetti dinner costs $6, while a slice of cheese
pizza is $3.
About 20 to 25 volunteers,
including school alumni as well as current students who help keep the
tables clean alongside their parents, all lend a helping hand every
Friday fry during Lent. After subtracting the overhead costs of running
the fish fry, the rest of the proceeds go directly back into helping
pay for school supplies and events at the elementary school.
is an event that was started for the parish and school community,” says
Ansbrow. “But now, it is something that is really community-driven, and
also something that gets people out to enjoy each other’s company.”
Stop by the fish fry in the school’s cafeteria any Friday through March
21, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Takeout is also available, and orders can be
placed in person.
St. John the Baptist
Church, 406 Court St., is another venue getting baked for Lent. In
fact, baked fish is the only option on the menu, and not just because
they are a bunch of health nuts taking it into their hands to ensure
MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
Bakin’ all over: John Soldo showcases a tray of baked haddock that will soon be enjoyed by Lent observers at St. Daniel/St. Matthew. Looking on is Jim Ansbrow, who oversees the fish fry.
“We don’t have the
facility to fry fish, or any other food for that matter,” says Grayce
Constantini, head of the Parish Life Committee at the church, who
organizes and runs the event. “And because of that, people really
recognize us as the best place to get baked fish in the area during
For five years they have been serving
North Siders and anyone else who wants to stop in, although some
newcomers get surprised when they see the atypical Lent menu options.
“A lot of people come in assuming we make fried fish,” continues
Constantini. “Some are kind of hesitant at first before finally giving
in to trying our baked fish, but when they do, they’ll usually keep
coming back because they liked it.”
the fish dinners, which are all haddock, come with choice of fries,
macaroni and cheese, clam chowder or baked beans, along with a dinner
roll and dessert. Although everyone raves about the fish, Constantini
says their desserts get just as much hype.
of the girls on the committee take turns making homemade cakes,” she
continues. “They always make chocolate because it’s the most popular,
but the other two choices always vary; in the past we’ve had a lemon
and vanilla, as well as a mix of chocolate banana and pineapple that
went over really well.”
New this year is a
kids’ menu, which features a toasted cheese sandwich with a choice of
macaroni and cheese or fries, as well as drink and dessert for $5. The
fish fry at St. John the Baptist will be open on Friday, Feb. 29, and
March 14, for lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and for dinner from 5 to 7 p.m.
food is dished out in the parish center, which was remodeled from the
cafeteria in the now-defunct St. John’s school, which the Diocese
closed in 2001. About 25 to 30 volunteers from the parish help out and
all profits earned after the cost of running the fish fry go to the
Constantini has been a parishioner
at St. John’s for 50 years, and sees the Lenten fish fry as a way to
get people out and into the swing of things. “We get a fairly good mix
of people in here,” she says. “And it’s nice to sit back and watch
everyone enjoying themselves and having a good time, and we’re happy we
can make that happen for them.”
Takeout is also available at St. John’s. Call ahead at 478-0916. q