"I'm off to a great start," my friend said last week. "I had sausage and peppers and barbecued chicken for lunch."
Alas, it was Ash Wednesday. Why is it so easy to eat vegetarian the whole year through, but then Lent arrives -- the period stretching from Ash Wednesday to Easter when some Christians eat a more austere diet and Catholics, in particular, give up meat on Fridays -- and it suddenly becomes difficult to craft a meal without beef or chicken?
In this day and age of vegetarianism, veganism and raw foodism, it's certainly easier to eat meatless on Fridays than ever before. Growing up it was a different story. I remember my mother shouting after my brothers when they left for school in the morning, "Remember, it's Friday! No meat!" It was difficult for them (they might've said impossible) to go a single day without a cheeseburger. Now it's more a matter of remembering that, oh yeah, it's Friday.
In case you need some meatless-dining ideas for the next four weeks, here's a guide to the Three P's of Lent.
- PASTA: Sure, you could dump a box of Mueller's spaghetti into the pot, but if you're looking for something a little heartier and fresher, check out the new Tutto Pasta in Fairfield (conveniently located next to the Fairfield Cheese Co. and Harry's Wine & Liquor) at Post and North Pine Creek roads.
When you order capellini, linguini or tagliatelle at Tutto Pasta, you can watch the pasta get rolled and cut. (Bring the kids; they'll get a kick out of it.) Or, you can get lasagna sheets cut to fit your pan. Pair up the pasta with some of their meatless sauces, like fresh basil pesto or verdura sauce made with tomatoes, caramelized onions, red bell peppers and vegetable stock.
The shop also sells vegetable-based soups including zucchini puree, carrot leek, curried cream of celery and cauliflower and cheddar.
Thou Shalt Not: I know, I know. What's spaghetti without meatballs and sausage? Well, you'll have to do without for another three weeks. Instead, add a side salad and garlic bread.
- PANCAKES: If there's ever a reason to have pancakes for dinner, then Lent is it. The great thing about pancakes is that you can dress them up in a number of ways.
Chip's on Tunxis Hill Road in Fairfield has something like 642 different varieties of pancakes (okay, maybe closer to 50), including decadent flavors like Hawaiian (with macadamia nuts, pineapple and coconut) and Strawberry Shortcake. They even have savory potato and sweet potato pancakes. Bonus points: your kids will be excited.
Thou Shalt Not: It's tempting to add a side of bacon, sausage or ham. Instead, opt for the fresh fruit or home fries. And, if you've given up chocolate for Lent, don't even think about the M&M pancakes.
- PIZZA: There's a reason that schools always serve cheese pizza on Fridays. It's a tradition that hearkens back to days when every Friday was a meatless Friday.
There's nothing wrong with just a plain cheese pizza, but it's also a good time to go crazy with the vegetable toppings. At Planet Pizza, which has a new outlet on the Post Road in Fairfield, you can order a Salad Pizza (a cheeseless pizza topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion and olives) or a Veggie Deluxe, with artichoke, olive, eggplant and sun-dried tomato.
Thou Shalt Not: No pepperoni, sausage or meatball. No Hawaiian, bacon, or buffalo chicken. And absolutely no meat lovers.
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Chip's: 525 Tunxis Hill Cutoff, Fairfield / 203-332-3370, www.chipsrestaurants.com
- Tutto Pasta: 2126 Post Road, Fairfield / 203-220-9535, www.tuttopastact.com
- Planet Pizza: 383 Post Road East, Westport / 203-454-4411, and 733 Post Road, Fairfield / 203-254-3000, www.planetpizza.com
- Saturday Bonus! Every Saturday until Easter, St. Anthony of Padua Church, 149 South Pine Creek Road in Fairfield, will be hosting Lenten soup suppers. The meal (consisting of a variety of homemade soups, bread and water) is served in the parish hall on every Saturday in Lent following the 6 p.m. Mass. Donate at the door whatever amount you might have spent on dinner that evening. All proceeds will benefit the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport. For information, check: www.stanthonyffld.org