The dearth of quick fry fish within the Charleston space on Friday leaves the northern transplants feeling as if Raskin ’round

Transplanted northerners, who are coping with the loss of pizza and bagels as early as this month, are grappling with an unlikely absence: fried fish.

While fried seafood is abundant on the South Carolina coast, eaters from cities like Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh are used to frying fish on Friday nights during Lent. The 2021 Pittsburgh Lenten Fish Fry Map lists more than 180 fry in churches, fire houses, and fraternal lodges, though map users can filter out venues that don’t offer homemade pierogis.

In contrast, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston said she was only aware of two fish fries across the state on Friday.

“Everyone who has come from afar has asked for it,” said Joseph Tompkins of Sweet T’s Island Kitchen, an Isle of Palms catering company that offers custom fasting platters of fried shrimp and flounder. “I grew up in South Carolina and we have never had a fish dinner at church in my entire life. But we have Ohio parishioners and they want it. “

Charlestonians have been roasting fish for centuries, but the Lowcountry event has long been associated with picnicking and waterfront election campaigning rather than religious abstinence from meat. The annual “World Famous Fish Fry” by US Representative Jim Clyburn is certainly the most famous fish roast on the regional calendar.

The 1933 Charleston Evening Post previewed a fish roast on the Edisto River jointly held by the Charleston and Orangeburg Chambers of Commerce:

“Details of the program were not disclosed, but everyone is likely to have a good time,” the newspaper predicted, securing its bet by suggesting that it could be the first fish roast in South Carolina that “legalized beer.” Ingredient will be “.

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The Friday night fish roasts, which take place year-round in the upper Midwest, are a bit more standardized. The specifics vary from town to town, but what the northerners usually expect is a casual menu event sponsored by an organization and held in a social hall.

“These are the things they do well,” the Cincinnati Enquirer decreed in 2018. “An eighth grader brings you your food, the priest goes around the tables (and) someone maneuvers a hand into it with a large plate of fish, one baby carrier in the other. “

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This Cincinnati plate also features fried potatoes, coleslaw, applesauce, green beans, and rye bread. Pittsburgh has haluski, a cabbage and noodle dish. Buffalo is part of the macaroni salad.

At Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in West Ashley, the only church in Charleston that offers roast fish, the fish platter is rounded off with red rice, coleslaw, and breastfeeding pups.

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The March 26 event will have a take-away component, but the diocese spokeswoman said the church is reluctant to publicize its event for fear of attracting large crowds. His pastor did not return messages asking for comment.

According to Tompkins, the demand for roast fish on Daniel Island is now so high that a priest called there and asked if he could help.

Tompkins suggests that Lent was never caught in the Lowcountry because seafood consumption was already a daily occurrence. He jokes that being forced to go on a diet of shrimp and semolina in a rich sauce is hardly a sacrifice. “Eating all this fine food when we’re supposed to suffer doesn’t seem very sacred,” he said.

Fried fish was the first item Tompkins sold when he decided to move from house building to serving food 11 years ago. He and his wife grew their small business into a successful catering business, but with so many private events canceled due to COVID, they’re selling fish again.

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A $ 12 plate contains green beans, coleslaw, french fries, and red rice with bacon.

“My priest told me years ago that you can add a little bacon to your food. It just can’t be a meal, ”said Tompkins. “He’s a guy from Sullivan’s Island, so he wants some bacon in his red rice.”

Northerners aren’t the only ones who love tradition.

To reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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