I’ve been hankering for a hot dog all day today. I couldn’t quite figure out why. You’ve heard the horror stories about how the processing plants basically grind up some unfortunate hog (hair, skin, teeth, and bones) and slide the ground mass into a section of intestine. We buy it, grill it, and put it on a bun with relish and spicy mustard and call it lunch. It sounds great to me now and I’ve figured out why. It’s Lent and it’s Friday and I’m not supposed to be eating meat. Tomorrow a hot dog won’t be the least bit appealing but today it is forbidden, hence the only reason I want it.
When I was growing up it was a mortal sin for Catholics to eat meat on any Friday. (A mortal sin is the really bad kind of sin, the kind that condemns you to hell for all eternity. Venial sins are the little sins, like telling a minor lie, for which you burn in purgatory for an undefined period of time. Sister Mary Ignatius said it was sometime between 300 years and 700 billion years. I don’t know where she got her data.) At some point I heard that it was a mortal sin not because eating meat was wrong but because it was considered disobedience to the church. But the Catholic Church changed the rules in the 1960s with Vatican II and now the abstinence from meat rule is in effect only on Fridays in Lent.
Apparently there were lots of exceptions pre-Vatican II but none of them worked in our house. If you were over 60 years of age you were exempt because you were too old. If you were a nursing mother you were exempt because I suppose babies need meat in their breast milk. If you were of Spanish descent you were exempt because sometime in the last 2000 years someone Spanish did a favor for the pope so all Spanish people were henceforth exempt from the no-meat Friday rule. The girls in high school in Mother Rosary’s Spanish class claimed that they were exempt because they were learning to speak Spanish. What a fool I was to be taking French.
Did you ever hear George Carlin’s take on Catholicism and not eating meat on Fridays? George Carlin also grew up Catholic under the old rules. He said it seemed unfair that people were spending eternity in hell on a “meat rap” for their sin before the no-meat on Fridays rule was changed. Timing is everything.
Forever I will associate tuna noodle casserole with meatless Fridays, though sometimes growing up in my house we had fish sticks or pancakes. Over the years I messed with my mother’s basic tuna noodle formula—tuna, noodles, and cream of mushroom soup. My kids loved my doctored-up version of tuna noodle casserole whether it was Friday or not. You’ll never see this recipe in Bon Appetit.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
16 ounces egg noodles
8 ounces cottage cheese
6 ounce can French-fried onions
3 cans tuna
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
½ cup grated carrot
1 cup milk
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook noodles as directed on package until barely cooked, drain. Mix cooked noodles with cottage cheese, half of the French-fried onions, tuna, soup, frozen spinach, grated carrot, and milk.
Put noodle/tuna mixture in a large deep casserole dish. Top with remaining half can of onions and grated Parmesan.
Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown on top.