The Fish Fry: A Great Catholic Tradition Alive and Well in the Little Rock Area

Sacrifice, prayer, and fasting are the typical attributes associated with the season of Lent, especially on Fridays, but there is always light in the darkness. For central Arkansas Catholics, parochial fish fries are their beacon in this time of fasting.

Immaculate Conception in North Little Rock hosts only two fish fries a year during Lent, but they make them big. Edward Williams, father of sophomore Andrew Williams, is one of the many I. C. Men’s Club members who helps cooks the food. He said, “Usually on both nights we will fill up the gym and the cafeteria from 4:30 to 7:00. That’s only the people who sit down and stay, we also have a to go line in the back. We cook A LOT of fish.”

Hundreds of people come to the event, but what makes it so popular? Senior Ricky Lewis volunteers at the Fish Fry every year and loves every moment of it. He said, “ Well, first off the food is so great. Not only do they serve Cajun seasoned catfish, but they also have tilapia, corn on the cob, coleslaw, hushpuppies and some amazingly seasoned french fries. For dessert there is Scoop Dog ice cream and homemade apple or peach cobbler. It’s not just the fish I love; it’s the whole meal.”

Not all fish fries have as much food as I.C. , but they each have their own special twist, like Holy Souls’ fish fry. Seminarian Nathan Ashburn (‘11) attended the Holy Souls fish fry this Lent. He said, “The food was pretty good. The best part was definitely the coleslaw; it was really unique. The portions were pretty small and there weren’t many options, but the coleslaw made up for it.”

Senior Gregory Houser attends Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Marche. He said, “ We have the typical fish fry food. Your fried catfish, or baked on request, hushpuppies, fries, coleslaw, the usual stuff, but the best part is the desserts. My favorite is the strawberry cake.”

Mr. Steve Wells is also attends the IHM fish frys and loves them. He said, “ The dessert is absolutely amazing. It’s all homemade desserts, but mostly cakes. If you go, you have to try the German chocolate cake or the yellow cake with caramel icing; they are to die for!”

The food isn’t the only quality that determines if a fish fry is great or not. The atmosphere plays a major part in it. The overall vibe in the room and how everything works really can make it or break it for fish fry.

Mr. Williams said, “ I love working at the fish fry. We may be working hard in the kitchen, but we never stop having fun. We always have a radio and speakers hooked up so we can sing and lighten the mood with some great rock tunes. We always try to make the event as fun as possible.”

Not only are the chefs having a blast in the back, but the participants are also enjoying themselves. Lewis said, “ There is always a buzz of laughter and high energy in the air. Usually us volunteers love to talk to the people in line and crack jokes and just be friendly. With the cooks’ radio going and the never-ending laughter from back there, it’s always a great time.”

Like any good party should, the fish fry poured outside onto the field outside the gym and on the hill. There were kids running all over the place playing football, soccer, and tag.

Mr. Williams said, “ We have kids running all over the place outside. They always prop the back door open and run in and out to get water, use the bathroom, and come ask for food. Their favorite thing to do is definitely the cardboard sleds. They take our boxes and sled down the hill all night.”

Over at Holy Souls they are pretty landlocked and don’t have the space of IC, but this isn’t really a penalty. Kilpatrick said, “ I actually like how we are pretty small. It makes everything cozier and friendlier. Instead of their being tons of people I don’t know, it’s lots of people who I know or can get to know.”

Over at IHM it’s a pretty similar scene. Houser said, “ We have a pretty big crowd, but not too big where it’s like packed to the brim and you can’t breathe. It’s usually a friendly environment. Our takeout window is a lot bigger; a lot of people just like to come and go.”

Besides atmosphere and food, one of the largest factors is most definitely pricing. Immaculate Conception comes in at $10 dollars with unlimited food, IHM is $12 with unlimited food, and Holy Souls is $8 with one plate, but you can ask for more. IC’s cost is pretty fair with the unlimited food, but the crowds factor into that. When there is a very large crowd it’s sometimes hard to jump back in line and grab seconds, but it’s always available. At IHM you probably have pretty fair chance at grabbing seconds. Holy Souls doesn’t directly say you can get seconds, but if you ask you can probably get some. The advantage though at Holy Souls is that you don’t have to fight the long lines and you can get your food pretty quick.

Msgr. Richard Oswald and Seminarian Alex Smith love to hop around the central fish fries during Lent and visit with the parishioners. Smith said, “Honestly in my opinion all the fish fries are great! They each have their own different style and taste, but they each have a common quality. They each provide a source of community, fun, and food during a pretty dry part of the year.”



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