By Ernest Barteldes
Until decades ago, Roman Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays as form of penance in honor of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, but after Vatican II the requirement was dropped and the decision to continue the tradition or not was left up to each nation’s churches. Most dropped the rule (though some heavily Catholic nations still keep doing so), and today most just abstain from meat on Fridays during the period of Lent – and especially on Good Friday.
Many people are unaware that the Catholic Church still recommends abstaining from meat on Fridays, but Renata and I do keep Fridays meat-free year round and opt instead for vegetarian of fish-based dishes. Of course this is not a problem because we do not eat red meat at home as a rule. In fact, since we are both big seafood and vegetable fans, sometimes we go for a full two weeks without even eating chicken. We try not to be too strict about it, and we do eat hot dogs when we go to Coney Island during the summer, and we will occasionally eat meat-based dishes when traveling.
Back when I was in Brazil, the tradition on Good Friday was to make baked salted codfish on Good Friday, and in some areas it is prepared with lavish ingredients that include coconut milk, cream and tomatoes – while planning this year’s Good Friday dinner, I came across a recipe published in a Fortaleza newspaper that included a rich shrimp sauce along with the usual potatoes and black olives.
As I have written before, Renata and I try to blend both Brazilian and Polish Easter traditions – Every year I make my way to Astoria to get those wonderful chocolate-filled eggs that are sold during this time, and on the day before Easter we head to a nearby Polish church to have our Easter Sunday breakfast blessed – eggs, sausage, bread and babka (a kind of semi-sweet cake) during a short ceremony that traditionally takes place in Renata’s home country and of course is carried on by the Polish community here.
Since we are both off on Good Friday, I take the opportunity to make the traditional bacalhau (codfish) that is served around Brazil – the salted fish is soaked overnight in fresh water, and the water is changed often to get rid of all the salt and then broken in small pieces. It is then layered with potatoes, tomatoes, red bell peppers, black olives, cheese, unfiltered palm oil, coconut milk and cream – it is delicious by itself or with a side of rice.
Recipe: Good Friday Codfish
Source: Cybercook, translated from Portuguese
2 lb. salted codfish, soaked overnight to remove the salt and hand-shredded in small pieces
4 oz. Cream (for best results use Media Crema, found in Latin stores)
14 oz. Coconut milk (one can)
100 ml olive oil
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons unfiltered palm oil (azeite de dende)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Salt, pepper and black olives to taste
One large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
Grease a large baking dish with olive oil. Layer it with potatoes, tomatoes, yellow peppers, onion, another onion, mozzarella, Add two tablespoons palm oil and layer the black olives. Repeat until all the ingredients have finished. Drizzle with coconut milk and make the last layer, which is mozzarella and olives covered in cream. Bring to a low oven for 1 hour, covered with foil. Remove foil and let brown (about 30 minutes).