All religious intentions and pretensions momentarily aside, cultural Catholicism was, is now, and probably always will be the ruler of the blood of my veins. So, I admit, it feels "right" to be back in Wisconsin, the land still ruled by Friday night fish fry, St. Nicholas Day, and Good Friday as a County holiday.
Yet, this is my 5th Ash Wednesday in my job, and my 5th Ash Wednesday at some large training/conference/event where no meatless meal option was offered. And there was an over-abundance of chocolate, which, in my experience, was the major go-to give-up for Lent.
Are we, oh citizens of the great frozen tundra, not the reputed masters of making misery attractive, maybe even almost desirable? Aren't we the part of the country that invented Friday night fish fry to give people a way out on Fridays? The original Lenten loophole? You would think that Ash Wednesday here would be our Mardi Gras of denial, our own "Verhungert Mittwoch," Slim-pickins Wednesday. A day to celebrate with all those time-honored, farm table standards of egg salad sandwiches, tuna noodle hotdish, hot German potato salad, and coleslaw proudly representing the vegetable food group.
Why is this not a thing? This should be the one day everybody in the Midwest goes vegetarian because, thanks to the stoic German Catholics and Norwegian Lutherans that gave us our Old Fashions and fish fry, this is just the thing we do. We expect tomato soup and macaroni and cheese, but hold the jello, I need to deny myself dessert today.
(Wait - jello is a fruit, you say? Well, okay, but just a little bit.)
And then, the truly expressive among us can continue the tradition every
Friday during Lent. At least make it a prominent (and guilt-inducing)
option. "Just the grilled cheese for me."
I feel my cultural roots melting. I feel as though I have witnessed the death of Lake Wobegon.