Friday, August 22, 2014

Bob Dunning: Lenten dinner tips sort of miss the point


From page A2 | March 09, 2014 |

So, last week on Ash Wednesday I was reading the esteemed Oregonian, my second-favorite newspaper in the country, when I came across a story titled: “8 meatless dishes that are perfect for observing Lent.”

Given that observing Lent frequently involves giving up one’s favorite dishes, I was curious as to what, exactly, The Oregonian felt I should be eating during this 40-day observance leading up to Easter.

“Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent,” The Oregonian begins accurately.

“Catholics and some Protestants have long considered the period of 40 days leading up to Easter as a time of transformation and renewal. Historically, it’s been seen as a period of penance, prayer, self-denial and charity.”

I’m with you so far.

“If you’re considering going meatless to observe Lent, you may think that you’re going to be sacrificing flavor from your meals. That couldn’t be further from the truth with these 8 dishes that abstain from animal products, but still are delicious and satisfying.”

I’m sensing this Lenten story is about to run off the tracks and into the high weeds here. The goal of fasting and abstinence isn’t to replace your favorite dishes with the best alternatives money can buy.

No, fasting and abstinence, as one might guess, are about fasting and abstinence. The goal has never been to somehow beat the rules without actually breaking them.

The Oregonian, however, is offering me an end run around all this fasting and abstinence with some unique recipes guaranteed to knock my socks off.

One suggested Lenten dish is the “garlic worshipper’s pasta.” I guess if you’re going to worship a food item at this time of year, it may as well be garlic.

And then there’s Chinese “chicken” salad for meat lovers, with the “chicken” in quotes because — don’t tell God — it’s not really chicken.

Notes The Oregonian: “If the thought of giving up meat for Lent is a difficult one, there are new faux-chicken products like Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken-Free Strips that can help bridge the gap.”

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I ate faux-chicken on Ash Wednesday.

Grilled portobello mushrooms are suggested as a great substitute “if steaks are a regular part of your game plan,” while the tomato and white bean sauce over rigatoni is touted for its “robust, meat-like quality” that provides a “zippy profile on the palate.”

Oddly, despite The Oregonian’s obsession with meatless dishes and zippy profiles, the rules for “abstinence” require giving up meat only on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent, although many folks give it up on other days as well. Vegetarians, apparently, can give up tofu during Lent.

According to the Lenten Regulations and Admonitions from the Diocese of Sacramento, Lent “is a time for reflection and spiritual renewal, a time to examine one’s relationships with God and with others.”

It’s not necessarily a time for fake chicken and portobello mushrooms that taste like steak.

“Lent prepares the faithful to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. The Church also calls Catholics to a spirit of penance, above all to practice the Acts of Religion: fasting, prayer and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others. The act of giving to the poor, in the most ancient tradition of the Church, is an expression of penance, a form of piety, a witness of fraternal charity and an expression of Lenten conversion.”

It is not a time for trying out new recipes.

Still, I’m saving these eight great recipes from The Oregonian. Come Easter Sunday, the greatest day of them all, it may be time to put them to the test.

— Reach Bob Dunning at





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