The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 14, 2013

Mike Pound: St. Bridget’s whips up Famous Fish Fry

I suppose if you took the bacon off the sandwiches my wife and I had for lunch at Mythos on Thursday, they would qualify as meatless and thus would be acceptable food on a Friday during Lent.

But I don’t know. A lobster BLT, even minus the “B,” doesn’t seem like the meatless Fridays of my Catholic youth.

When I was a kid, Catholics weren’t allowed to eat meat on any Fridays — not just on Fridays that fall during Lent, as is the practice today. If you think that fact makes me seem old, you should also know that when I starting serving Mass as an altar boy, the Mass was celebrated in Latin.

I had to study hard to learn the proper altar boy Latin responses in order to serve Mass, and then, two months after I learned the required Latin, the church switched to English.

I think the pope did that on purpose.

But back to Fridays. When I was a kid, Friday meals tended to be a bit drab. In those days, most grocery store fish products had been frozen for decades. In case you’re wondering, decades-old frozen fish tastes like ... well, like decades-old frozen fish.

But every once in a while, my parents would spring for fried shrimp, and suddenly our meatless Friday meal didn’t seem so drab. In fact, eating fried shrimp on Friday didn’t even seem like Friday.

The nice folks at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Scammon, Kan., understand what I’m talking about. Their Famous Fish Fry, sponsored by the St. Bridget’s Knights of Columbus chapter, was created to take the drab out of Friday meals.

I’ve written about the Famous Fish Fry for a number of years, and every year I feel a responsibility to explain how the fish fry got its name. For some three decades or so, the late, great Dan Willis was the morning announcer on KKOW. Dan was the sort of broadcaster who related to radio listeners on a very personal basis. He was the sort of guy who made folks feel as if they knew him even if they didn’t.

Back in the late 1980s or early 1990s (nobody can remember exactly), Dan heard about the Scammon fish fry and showed up one Friday night. When he got to the front of the line, Dan said, “I’m here for the famous fish fry.”

With that, a name was born.

Like all food-related events at St. Bridget’s, the food at the fish fry is amazing. It takes 15 or 20 folks to put the meal together, and most of those people know their way around a kitchen.

What they do is fry up a mess of catfish (at fish fries, catfish always comes in a “mess”). They also fry loads of cod and shrimp. Potatoes are baked, wild rice is made, along with German or cream-style coleslaw, and they whip up a load of clam chowder.

In case you’re wondering, when it comes to coleslaw I prefer the German to the cream-style, but either one works.

As this is the first Friday in Lent, the first Famous Fish Fry is also tonight. The fish fries begin at 6 p.m. Fridays during Lent at the parish hall and run until the food is gone.

The catfish and cod dinners are $8, and the shrimp dinner is $9. The dinners come with a baked potato or wild rice, and German or cream-style coleslaw. The St. Elmo’s platter is $12 and includes catfish, cod, shrimp, clam chowder, potato or rice, and choice of coleslaw.

You may also get a grilled cheese sandwich for $2 or a bowl of chowder for $3. All dinners come with coffee or iced tea and dessert. Children under the age of 6 eat for free.

If you get a chance make the drive to Scammon for the fish fry, you should. It will make you forget it’s Friday.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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