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The California Grunion Fry Part 1
Courtesy of the New York Public Library

Courtesy of the New York Public Library

As part of our ongoing series on the culinary traditions of Lent we turn today to a WPA writer Charles J. Sullivan who collected and wrote a story titled the “Grunion Fry.” It is archived in the Library of Congress as part of its America Eats collection. Sullivan served as a member of the Southern California Writers Project. Because the length of the story we have decided to divide it into several parts which we have divided into separate post. As we have done thus far in this series we share the story in a paraphrased format when necessary to make it legible and direct quotes as often as possible. The Grunion Fry is an annual fishing festival peculiar to the beaches of California. It is a hilarious sport and picnic in which no tackle of any kind is used in each inning last less than 30 seconds. Nevertheless, the hunt is a strenuous one during this fleeting interval. The grunion itself, 3 to 6 inches in length, is a succulent relative of the smelt, differing from other species and other fish in the manner of its spawning—a natural phenomenon which prompts thousands of men, women, and children to congregate at California’s beaches on certain specified nights of each year to feast upon these clever fish. That they make a tasty morsel, goes without saying. Even the epicureans agree that there are few seafood equal to them when fried in deep fat on the ocean beach soon after they are caught.

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