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A Culinary History of Ash Wednesday

A Culinary History of Ash Wednesday

 Sandusky, Ohio 1891, Courtesy of Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

Sandusky, Ohio 1891, Courtesy of Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

Lent, from the old Saxon phrase--Lengten-tide--the time when the days lengthen; originally began on Sunday but church officials concluded it an inappropriate time to start a fast. So they moved it to Wednesday. So what is Lent? It is a season in which the observant increase church attendance, service, moderation, restrain from amusements, and luxuries. How fish became a principal food eaten during the Lenten season is unclear. The season does coincide with the thawing of waterways and the maturity of a variety of seafood.  In Ohio for example, one found food markets stocked with cod, haddock, flounder, smelts, eel, halibut, blue fish, bass, and salmon during the Lenten season. Ohio fish markets also imported shad, snappers and groupers from the south and bass, salmon, pike, trout, whiting, perch, from the north. 

Fish Soup Recipe


1 1/2 pounds of fish

1 cup various sweet herbs

½ cup celery

1 cup hot milk

1 tablespoon butter

1 egg well beaten


1 1/2 pounds of fish, clean and cut in cube sized chunks then put them into a stew pot with a quart of cold water. Add 1 cup various sweet herbs and ½ cup celery. Stew until the fish is in shreds; then rub through a sieve; return to the boiler, add 1 cup hot milk, season to taste, stir in 1 tablespoon butter; and just before taking from the fire at 1 egg well beaten and mixed first with a little of the hot soup to prevent curling in the soup. Then bring to boil once and serve with croutons moistened with Worcestershire sauce before they are buttered and toasted.

The Hartford Courant, Mar 17, 1903

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