Your stomach grumbles for pepperoni on your pizza. Your ears clamor for the sizzle of bacon. Signs for every fast food burger joint in town glisten on the drive home. Normally, visions of meat don’t haunt you at every meal. But it’s a Friday during Lent. The floodgates open.
It seems that any time I’m restricted from something, I start craving it even more: the candy wrappers that shimmer when I’ve committed to a healthy diet; the alcohol that promises to make my evening more relaxed when I’m trying to cut down. Now that we’re in Lent, it seems that I crave meat at every meal on a Friday.
For Catholics, Lent is a 40-day season of intentional preparation for Easter. Throughout this season, we ramp up in three departments: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Under the fasting umbrella, we give up certain likes or extravagances while also abstaining from things periodically — like meat on Fridays.
The reason for added sacrifice on Friday relates to the idea that Jesus died on Good Friday. Friday has therefore come to symbolize a day of penance — by offering something up, we are uniting our small sacrifice to that of Jesus on the cross and remembering his work of salvation. In ancient times, meat was a luxury eaten on special occasions and on feast days. During Lent, Catholics abstain from meat as a symbol of simplicity and penance.
Hence the invention of McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich and other fast-food Lenten options. Fried fish between smushed hamburger buns might seem more like a cruel and unusual punishment than a spiritual practice, so if you’re like me and can’t stomach the idea of a Filet-O-Fish for lunch on Fridays during Lent, don’t worry — there are other options.
These recipes include a range of food options that go from simple to slightly extravagant. Because Lent is a time of sacrifice and penance to help us better love God and others, we can also limit our portions or eat more simply as a way to stand in solidarity with those who are hungry or suffering. During our Lenten journey, we can confidently wave goodbye to the Filet-O-Fish and confront our body’s grumbling and clamoring for meat with a prayerful disposition as an opportunity to strengthen our wills and open our hearts.
Here are meatless meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each Friday of Lent to get you through the season feeling not only like a “good” Catholic (whatever that means), but also like a balanced and well-nourished human being.
- Peanut butter banana oatmeal
- Yogurt and granola breakfast bowls
- Scrambled eggs and avocado toast
- Smoothie – try pumpkin peanut butter
- Whole wheat banana pancakes
- Apple carrot muffins
- Crispy baked black bean and sweet potato tacos
- Smashed avocado and chickpea sandwich
- Southwest veggie quesadillas and guacamole
- Goat cheese and spinach salad with beets
- Caprese sandwich with parsley pesto
- Thai coconut curry butternut squash soup with baguette