Muskrat — it’s whats for dinner on Lenten Fridays

It may taste like chicken, but alligator is actually classified as a fish by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which means it’s still on the menu during Lent.

“Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat… Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals), and shellfish are permitted,” the USCCB stated.

This distinction opens up meatless Friday to some very interesting options.

First: Yes, you can still eat your favorite soup even if it’s made with chicken broth.

“Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat,” the bishops state. “Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.”

Research shows that waivers have also been granted to all sorts of animals that divide their time between land and water.

So what else is on the menu?

  • Puffin—The practice of eating this aquatic bird dates back to the 1600s with monks at a Benedictine abbey in northern France.
  • Muskrat—The Detroit archdiocesan communications department said there is a standing dispensation dating back to the 1700s for Catholics downriver to eat muskrat on Fridays — if you’re brave enough. A bishop from the area once said that eating muskrat is a penance worthy of the holiest saint.
  • Beaver—In the 17th century, the bishop of Quebec received permission from the Church for his flock to eat beaver. The Church classified the semi-aquatic rodent as a fish.
  • Capybara are also classified as fish and are commonly eaten during Lent in Venezuela.

Of course, the reason for not eating meat on Fridays is to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, the bishops advise, so indulging ourselves on that Friday in foods we enjoy misses the point.