Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, and Greater Pittston organizations are prepping food sales for those participating in the religious practice.
In the Catholic faith, participants refrain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Duryea, which has been doing a food sale for over 50 years for Lent, is one place to get some Lenten grub this year.
Foods available for the parish’s sale include potato pancakes, pierogies, red clam chowder, seafood bisque, haluski, pizza, and a bake sale.
“We start about a month beforehand with preparing food and then whole week is spent cooking it,” said volunteer Dave Tighe. “This week, with the potato pancakes, we had to peel the potatoes and make the batter and you can’t do that too far in advance. There’s a lot of food prep work, so when it comes together everything is ready.”
Proceeds for the food sales go back into the parish.
With anywhere between 20 to 25 volunteers, Tighe said the most difficult task of preparing for the food sale is coordinating schedules.
Because of the conflicting schedules the church is only holding two sales — one on Friday, Feb. 12 and one on Friday, March 18.
“We have a gap because having people able to volunteer and coming out every week, it wouldn’t work,” he said. “People would use personal time getting off work or getting babysitters for children. It all has to do with people’s availability for volunteering.”
Tighe said a month-long wait in between food sales shouldn’t damper attendance as the parish usually serves over 400 customers each year.
“We look forward to happy customers, camaraderie and the community getting together,” he said. “I personally enjoy the intergenerational gap between students and senior citizens working together on the same project, and everybody in between. Also seeing people from Duryea and Greater Pittston come in, year after year, it gives a great sense of continuity in a crazy world.”
While churches are a great place to go for a Lenten food sale, fire companies are also great sources of meatless meals.
The Hughestown Hose Company No. 1 will hold its annual Good Friday Fish Fry on Friday, March 25 at the hose company.
Fire chief Jamie Merlino said the event went on in the ’70s and ’80s, but stopped in the ’90s due to poor attendance. He brought the tradition back in 2005 and it’s been an annual event ever since.
He said preparing the food is easy, and everything is homemade.
“The fries are fresh cut and we have a cutter in the back where we cut the potatoes,” Merlino said. “We buy the bread rolls, which are baked that morning, and the fish comes to us in a filet that we cut into portions. The fish comes from from B3Q Smokehouse in West Pittston. Every Friday during Lent they sell salmon, fish and cod and (they) get a good discount, so we kind of piggy back off them.”
With anywhere from 20 to 25 volunteers, mostly firemen, working the kitchen and serving over 200 dinners, Merlino said preparing and serving the food goes off without a hitch.
Cleaning up is a different story.
“We have a lot of great volunteers and some with experience as cooks,” he said. “The prepping isn’t so bad, and a lot of guys are kind of naturals at it and we’re fortunate for having them. The hardest part is cleaning up; that kitchen as oil everywhere and it gets kind of messy in there.”
Proceeds from the event go back into the fire company.
Although the annual event is not until the end of Lent, that does not diminish Merlino’s anticipation.
“My favorite part is seeing all of the guys working together and having a good time,” he said. “Any time the fire department can give back, it’s great. Any time we can give back, it makes us feel good. Plus the camaraderie with the guys providing service is great.”