Putting together the Lenten fish fries, whether it's in a church or a civic organization, must be a, uh, whale of a lot of work. I speak as someone who didn't grow up in the world of LFFs, as they will henceforth be called, and it amazes me that they manage to feed so many people so efficiently, a job the participants presumably don't do the remaining 46-or-so weeks a year. There must be a lot of careful annual note-taking, the notes probably kept in a safe deposit box somewhere lest they be lost for succeeding chairpersons and cooks.
All I do is show up, find the door and wait in line, sometimes solo, sometimes with a pal or two, pay my money and eat my fish. Perhaps because I was raised in what was essentially a temperance household, the presence or absence of beer is not a big deal to me. I keep busy people watching. As someone said in the Food Talk forum on stltoday.com, in answer to a querulous remark about why anyone would wait in line for ordinary food like this, "It's what we do here." I liked that answer. It fits right into the Norman Rockwell-ish scenario that an LFF is.
There are always places that will stand out, though, and that's nearly always due to those folks who create the LFFs. I found one at Epiphany of Our Lord's LFF in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood of St. Louis, which is a great deal easier to get to now that they reopened McCausland just north of the Arsenal bridge. There's more selection than I have found anywhere so far, and the pricing is all a la carte, so if you want a single shrimp and three desserts, this is your place. A long, long table of homemade desserts, including giant cubes of angel food cake looking like marshmallows from an old LSD dream. Small containers of jello, applesauce, two kinds of slaw, three-bean salad and pickled beets. Four different kinds of fish - catfish, cod, jack salmon and shrimp. Spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, green beans and corn. Soda, beer, coffee, iced tea - and wine. (Zinfandel lovers, return your heart rate to normal; despite the sign that says red zinfandel, this is the white zin.)
The cod was fairly unremarkable, but I hadn't come for cod. I have a soft spot for jack salmon, no matter what name it goes by. This was almost completely boned, just a few at the larger end, and dipped in cornmeal before being fried. It was, in a word, excellent, the best jack salmon/whiting I've had in several years. I may stop doing LFF rounds and just come back every week for this. Spaghetti peered out of a thick tart-sweet tomato sauce, and I've since been told the mac and cheese is the It Dish of the sides - my pal Gerry the K and I watched a toddler ambidextrously stuff his mouth with it and green beans. Three bean salad was surprisingly good, and the pickled beets, which seemed to have both honey and cinnamon in them, were strong and rich.
What I chose from the dessert table was probably a dump cake - cherries, not cherry pie filling, a gooey layer and oatmeal on top. Definitely not a commercial dessert. You could see giant sheet pans in the back full of more desserts, clearly baked on site or nearby and looking very homemade.
Busy, but not impossible; a 5.30 arrival got us seated by 5.50. They're in the gym at the school - right by the parish bowling alleys!
Epiphany of Our Lord
6596 Smiley at Ivanhoe