Friday Fish Fry Day

Friday Fish Fry Day is a celebration of the Friday night fish fry, a Midwest tradition.

Friday Fish Fry Day takes place each year on the first Friday of Lent and is celebrated in Wisconsin, in the Midwest, in the United States, and around the world. The first annual Friday Fish Fry Day takes place on February 19, 2021.

What's in a Friday night fish fry

Conversation about the past week bubbles up between friends and family as they sip on Brandy Old Fashioneds and wait for a table at which to partake in the weekly fish fry ritual. Youngsters suck down Kiddie Cocktails with wild abandon—all week they've been anticipating Friday night just as much as their parents have. Suddenly, heads turn as a familiar last name is heard over the din of the room. "Our table's ready!" someone exclaims, and they make their way to the most magnificent of all feasts.

While not a requirement, a cup of New England clam chowder is a common way to start off a Friday night fish fry. It stops the grumbling stomach and holds it over until the rest of the food arrives. And what makes up the rest of the food? First, there's the most important component: the fish. Either beer battered or breaded and then deep fried, it may be of a saltwater or freshwater species, such as cod, pollock, haddock, catfish, smelt, perch, walleye, or bluegill. Sometimes there is a combo platter or all-you-can-eat option for a few dollars more. Good fried fish doesn't need tartar sauce, but a good tartar sauce can make a good fried fish great. Fish frys also usually come with a choice of potato—most often french fries or potato pancakes—coleslaw, and rye bread. A lemon wedge often garnishes the plate. It all goes down nicely with an ice-cold pilsner beer. While it wouldn't be a fish fry without the food, it is the tradition of coming together with family and friends that makes it special.

History of the Friday night fish fry

Friday night fish frys are particularly common in Wisconsin, where they are a year-round tradition. There they are found in taverns, restaurants, supper clubs, church basements, bowling alleys, and beer gardens, and at fraternal organizations and social clubs. The Friday night fish fry tradition cuts across class, geographic, and political lines, making it a shared experience that has the potentiality to help people break down barriers and build a better world. In high-end restaurants and neighborhood dive bars, the fish fry is reasonably priced, and reigns on Friday night. In downtown urban centers and along country backroads, the fish fry reigns on Friday night. In Red Republican households and Blue Democrat households, the fish fry reigns on Friday night.

Three main factors came together to make Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry capital. First, a large German Catholic population from Europe settled the state in the nineteenth century. At the time, they were required by the church to abstain from warm-blooded meat on every Friday of the year. They made fish their cold-blooded meat of choice. Church reforms came in the twentieth century, which stipulated that warm-blooded meat only had to be avoided during Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. This is why fish frys are particularly popular during Lent today, and why the first Friday of Lent was chosen as the date for Friday Fish Fry Day.

The second main factor that helped make Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry capital is beer. For one, fried fish is often beer battered, and the state was known for brewing beer. Breweries like Pabst, Miller, Schlitz, and Blatz were all headquartered in Milwaukee. For another, many taverns began selling fried fish during Prohibition, to bring in customers and stay afloat since they could no longer sell beer. Fried fish also provided a good cover for beer that was often sold under the table. It was during this era, in the 1920s and '30s, that the Friday night fish fry in Wisconsin really began to take hold.

The third main factor that helped make Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry capital is the abundance of lakes and fish. Not only does Wisconsin have many inland lakes, but it is bordered on the east by Lake Michigan, and part of its northern border is along Lake Superior. Together, these waters provided Wisconsinites with plenty of freshwater fish for their Friday ritual. The synergy between these three factors made the ascension of the Friday night fish fry in the state a natural occurrence.

How to celebrate Friday Fish Fry Day

Friday nights are for coming together with family and friends and enjoying a fish fry, and that's what Friday Fish Fry Day is about as well. During a normal year, the day would be celebrated with loved ones at a restaurant, tavern, or supper club. Things look a little different during this inaugural year on account of the pandemic. Instead, celebrants are encouraged to support a local establishment by picking up a fish fry to eat at home with their household. They should make sure to leave an extra large tip and let employees know it's Friday Fish Fry Day! Places that serve fish frys can participate by offering fish fry specials.

If celebrants are feeling extra creative, they could make their own fish fry. While we may not be able to celebrate Friday Fish Fry Day in person with everyone we want to this year, a brighter day is ahead. Make sure to share a photo of your fish fry on social media along with the name of the place you got it from and the hashtag #FridayFishFryDay!