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Fish on Fridays: It’s Still a Thing

Why no meat on Fridays during Lent?

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When I was growing up, eating fish on Friday was the norm in Catholic households — not just during Lent, but on every Friday of the year!  Yes, back then Catholics over the age of 7 abstained from meat every Friday of the year.  And, because of their meat-less Fridays, Catholics were called “mackerel snappers.” So, how did the commercial world react to this reality?

In 1962, Lou Groen owned a McDonald’s in predominately Catholic Monfort Heights, near Cincinnati, Ohio.  During Fridays in Lent, Groen watched as his customers flocked to a nearby restaurant for their fish sandwiches.  So Groen (a Catholic himself) decided to create his own fish sandwich.  He cut up halibut, dipped the pieces in batter and fried them.  Groen was so happy with his sandwich that he traveled to Chicago and suggested to Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, that he add his fish sandwich to the menu.

Kroc was not impressed.

But Groen didn’t give up.  Finally, Kroc made him a wager.  McDonald’s would try out Groen’s fish sandwich for Good Friday, as well as a hula burger Kroc was developing.  They would see which sandwich had the higher sales, and that sandwich would be added to the menu.  On Good Friday, Groen sold 350 of his fish sandwiches.  Kroc never said how many hula burgers he sold (one source said only six), but, as a result, the filet-of-fish became part of the McDonald’s menu in 1965.  Today, customers eat more than 300 million McDonald’s filet-of-fish sandwiches each year, and it is considered the world’s best-selling fish sandwich!

So, when you are in the cafeteria line for lunch on Friday’s during Lent, look for fish — it’s the Catholic thing to do!

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Fish on Fridays: It’s Still a Thing