However, one tradition that does connect with Jesus’ life is the custom of eating fish on Good Friday and throughout lent. Originally, Christians ate fish every Wednesday and Friday, to memorate the day that Jesus was betrayed by Judas (Wednesday) and the day of the crucification (Friday). In Jesus life time, meat was a luxury food. You could either buy meat at a market or you had to own a lot of land to raise and feed cattle-either way you had to be rich to afford it. On the other hand, everyone could grow or gather vegetables and wild plants and (unlike today) anyone could go to a lake or river and catch fish. Thus, you could eat even if you had no money, and poor people lived on fish and wild foods.
The origin of the fast was a spiritual one. The idea was that a person had to prove that their mind was stronger than the commands of their belly. They did not necessarily have to forego food entirely, but they had to master their cravings and restrict their diet. Even though my family did not observe religious traditions carefully, I remember that my mother served fish on Good Friday even though we lived landlocked and rented a house on a farm with dairy cows and mast pigs for neighbors.
According to the NOAA FishNews website following the Christian rule of eating fish Wednesdays and Fridays is right in accord with current health recommendations. As fish is a great source of lean protein and some fish species contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, this website recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Regular fish consumption is also linked to less arthritis and a lower risk of stroke. In Kodiak, we are perfectly located to live a healthy life by consuming lots of wild-caught salmon, which is rich in those fatty acids. What are they good for? Some studies suggest that fatty acids promote brain health and support the immune system. If pregnant and nursing mothers eat salmon, their kids benefit.
Did you know that the top ten list of seafood eaten in America starts with shrimp and that over 90 percent of the shrimp eaten in the USA is farmed overseas? Yes, this is the same shrimp that you buy in our local grocery stores. Second on that list of most consumed seafood is tuna, which is also mostly imported. Our good salmon ranks number three in the Nation, but again, half the salmon consumed in the US is imported farmed salmon. Finally, in fourth place is pollock from Alaska.
I was surprised that halibut did not make the top ten list. However, it is highly praised as a healthy source of protein. In fact, there are no limitations on the amount of halibut recommended for good health. Interestingly, some general guidelines for selecting the healthiest seafood choices coincide with good fisheries management practices: You should select shorter lived or younger fish, because they have not had the chance to collect as much mercury and pollutants in their bodies as the older individuals. If you catch very large halibut, you should let them go for those are older females, which may not be the healthiest choice for eating, but produce the most eggs to sustain the population. Sharks are also a bad choice, they are long lived and increasingly endangered. Some rock fish are known for their exceptionally long life and late maturity. Local Alaskan salmon, pollock and cod remain a healthy choice. You may even consider trying some European herring recipes!
I think we will celebrate the Easter weekend with a good meal of local salmon or halibut and vegetables. I just don’t see how that would be considered fasting, it sounds a lot more like feasting to me!