Throughout the United States, the six weeks of Lent brings a focus on family-friendly fish and seafood recipes as well as meatless dishes.
It s a special time of prayer, fasting, and giving donations of money and food to benevolent causes (alms-giving). There are special programs that focus on meatless meals as a way of fasting.
Operation Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services annual Lenten initiative, combines recipes from developing countries with an opportunity to learn about hunger and poverty. Each week participants make the sacrifice of making a simple meal, putting the money they save into symbolic rice bowls to support CRS mission to fight global hunger.
For last year s Operation Rice Bowl, there was a cod recipe from Guatemala, Jollof rice from Africa, a potato curry from India, red beans and rice from Haiti, and fried vegetables from Cameroon.
This year the featured dishes are babaganoush from Egypt, a baked white fish with sauteed vegetables from the Philippines, a type of potato pancake with carrots and spice from Tanzania, plantain turnovers from Honduras, and groundnut stew from Ghana. The latter is often called a peanut butter soup which is combined with different vegetables and served over rice. (Groundnuts are similar to peanuts.)
Operation Rice Bowl has been celebrated in Catholic parishes since 1975, says Rev. Kent Kaufman of All Saints Parish in Rossford. We will distribute Rice Bowls (cardboard offering boxes) to children in school and to adults and families this weekend in church. It s one of the many things we do during Lent.
In March, All Saints Parish will have four Bread and Soup Dinners on four Mondays in March (March 2, 9, 16, and 30). Two parishioners will make the bread, says Rev. Kaufmann. Other parishioners make the soups. First we have vespers in church at 6 p.m.
Although not all soups are meatless, each night a meatless soup from another part of the world will be offered. This will include a soup of Africa on March 2 (Lou Ann Kress will make a Kenyan soup with leeks, carrots, chile peppers, and peanut butter) and a soup of Latin America on March 9. When Rev. George Mullenkal, pastor at St. Michael Ukranian Catholic Church, who is originally from India, speaks on March 16, the parishioners will serve a soup from India, and when Rev. Kaufmann speaks on the Holy Land on March 30, a soup of the Middle East will be among the soups served. (He notes the website http://orb.crs.org/features/recipes/index.cfm for a very complete list of recipes.)
Meatless meals are also planned for health reasons.
John Hopkins School of Public Health is encouraging Meatless Mondays. The school s Center for a Livable Future suggests people can reap benefits by forgoing meat just one day a week. It helps lower cholesterol, decrease cancer risks, reduce carbon footprint, and conserve fresh water, says the center director Robert Lawrence. Plant-based meals cost less money.
In Almost Meatless by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond (Ten Speed Press, $22.50), the recipes focus on meat as an enhancement rather than the centerpiece. In the chapter A Bit of Chicken, there s Chicken Pizza with Arugula Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Smoked Turkey Nachos is made with pound smoked turkey leg meat, shredded. Barley is a common ingredient in hearty dishes like soup, stew, and stuffing. French Onion Soup and Deviled Eggs are part of the repertoire. They re also much loved flavors.