Tuesday, March 7, 2006

from Wallbank's Compendium of Knowledge

The “Fish on Friday” tradition is ancient. Early on, followers of the fish goddess, Aphrodite Salacia, indulged in orgies and fish fries on Fridays. Meanwhile, Scandinavians (who hadn’t yet discovered the orgy) named Friday after the goddess Freya and ate fish on Friday, because it all began with “F.” Early Christians used the “icthys” symbol in a stab at a global branding logo to mark secret meeting places as well as bingo halls. Some sources assert the Pope’s hat (or miter, officially adopted as bishopric and papal headgear around 1100 AD) looks like a fish. From some angles. In 998 AD, Pope Gregory V invented Lent, suggesting that Catholics fast (not eat) on Fridays, and abstain (avoid meat entirely) for 40 days before Easter. Some claim Italian fishermen had petitioned the Pope in the 15th century to make people eat more fish because business was slow. Jeez, of course business was slow. Who could respect those dawdlers? Fishermen could’ve hopped on the “Fish on Friday” bandwagon FIVE centuries earlier. Others claim the Pope actually owned the fishing fleet so he made the decree to benefit himself. Still others assert that the Pope had made a deal with the King of Norway to sell more Norwegian fish in Italy. This I doubt, since the King of Norway was already eating yummy walleye on Freya’s Day. Pope Nicholas V (or so) had declared Friday as Day of Abstinence. He also contrived a penitential dietary law that forbid the use of any animal product (eggs, meat, cheese, butter, milk, fur, leather, and beef jerky) during Lent. This has since been eased up some. Most smarty-pants will explain the distinction between fish and meat by saying fish is meat that doesn’t walk on land, and thus is exempt from its own definition. Others point out the Latin “carnus” means “meat,” while “fishusisn’t even a word. The Nice Hat Council of 1178 maintained that since a large fish saved Jonah, fish should be commemorated by eating fish. Of course the controversy of who decreed the rule (or what actually constitutes “meat”) continues to this very day because the Church rarely likes to write anything down if it means it might be blamed for something. Recently in Wisconsin, a mammal that lives in water, the muskrat, was allowed into the “fish” category just like the capybaras, a South American muskrat. In the local case of corned beef on St Patrick’s Day, a dispensation is declared by the Pope. You’ll see the Holy Father, God love him, wearing his big hat, enjoying a green beer at the VFW on Paddy’s day, chompin’ away at corned beef and cabbage, singing “McNamara’s Band.” (He delights in the “By yimminy, I'm the only Swede” part.) Go ahead, send a few bucks to the Friendly Sons of St Patrick or the Ancient Hibernians. You’ll see.
ADDENDUM: This is an AP photograph

(AP Photo/A Fifis; IFREMER) of kiwa hirsuta, a furry blind 6-inch white crustacean just discovered that lives in thermal vents 900 miles south of Easter Island. This'll get those "fish ain't meat" people going. Just remember, "Fur ain't fish."


Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, commencement addresses, valedictory speeches, catechism classes, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink. Ever.