Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Is It Okay To Eat Alligator For Lent?


Dear Friends,

The headline said: U.S. CATHOLICS FREE TO EAT ALLIGATOR THIS LENT and I immediately thought of Sandi. My brother had been dating her for a little while and we invited them both to dinner. We wanted to get to know her, but perhaps more importantly, we wanted Sandi to see what an awesome family her new boyfriend had.

And I was excited. I had gone to a butcher’s shop to buy some steaks to barbecue and was pleased to find they had some fresh alligator meat. I'd never seen that in a store, and wanting to make a good impression on our dinner guests, I bought four pounds. We thought how much fun it would be if we didn’t tell them what it was until after dinner!

It was delicious grilled. It had the firmness of grilled swordfish and a delicate taste. I made a light cream sauce with a Cognac reduction and a hint of capers that added nicely to the gourmet ‘gator. Sandi loved it and so I proudly told her what it was.

She said nothing. Actually, I don't seem to remember her speaking at all the rest of the evening. In fact, for many years after that gourmet dinner at our house, she avoided my brother’s awesome family and refused to speak with us. We later found out that soon after the dinner with us, she decided to become a vegan.

This article about Lent appeared in the Catholic Herald and stated that a debate had raged on about the appropriateness of eating alligator on a Friday when Catholic doctrine requires a fast from meat on all Fridays during the season of Lent. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the statement that "Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from birds, chickens, cows, goats, sheep or pigs.” But, “salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.” So it's okay for Catholics to consume alligators, crocodiles, frogs, turtles, snakes, and lizards on the Fridays during Lent. The good news of course for those of us who are Protestants is that we are not bound by Catholic Abstinence Laws and we can eat both meat and alligators on these Lenten Fridays...

I share this appetizing story to show how we can all so easily confuse our faith with our religious practices. We can so easily make our spirituality  about the right way to perform a ritual when our righteousness is found in Christ Jesus alone. Today (Wednesday, March 1st) is the first day of Lent and during this Lenten season, our sole focus needs to be on our Heavenly Father. Nitpicking details of what and how to appropriately participate in Lent are no more helpful to our spirituality than the rabbinic laws of the Orthodox Jews would be. In fact, you might remember there was One born 2000 years ago who, among other accomplishments with His birth, life and resurrection, has freed us from religious and dietary laws. Acts 10:9-16   Romans 10:4   Galatians 3:23-25

If we give up something for Lent and that fast doesn’t bring us closer to God then we’ve simply engaged in a legalistic exercise of spiritual futility. We take great pride in giving up chocolate and ice cream while we continue in our constant, unrepentant sins of gossip, negativity, judgmental condemnation of others, anger, unforgiveness and (insert your sin here: ______________) that creates distance between us and God.

Giving up meat for Lent may help your cholesterol by reducing saturated fats in your diet, but merely fasting on foods won’t help an impoverished soul. If you long for more God in your life, take some prayer time and ask Him to show you the sin that most interferes with your spiritual life. Then test it. Make that your Lenten “fast” this year. Temporarily give up that sin to see if doing so brings you closer to God. Then when Lent is over, on Easter Sunday, you can make the choice to take back the sin and please the devil. Or permanently delete it from your life and please your Heavenly Father. Amen?

____________________________________

If I whetted your appetite with this week's AMEN Corner,
here's my recipe for Crocodile Stroganoff you can try...

Preparation:
1. In large pot, bring salted water to boil for Pasta
Ingredients:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
12 ounces Mushrooms – stems removed and sliced
¾ pound Crocodile or Chicken Breasts* – cut into 1½ x ½ x ½ inch strips
½ cup Beef Broth
1 tablespoon unsalted Butter
1 small Onion – minced
1 tablespoon BBQ Sauce**
1 ½ teaspoons Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Flour
½ cup Chicken Broth
½ cup Dry White Wine
⅓ cup Sour Cream
1½ teaspoon Cajun Seasoning 
Kosher Salt to taste
8 ounces Egg Noodles – add Pasta to water in Step 5 below.

Technique:
1. Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in straight sided skillet.
2. Saute Mushrooms about 4 minutes and transfer to bowl.
3. Add more EVOO and saute meat 3-4 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
4. Deglaze pan with Beef Broth, reduce to ¼ cup. Transfer to bowl.
5. Place Pasta in uncovered boiling water. Cook for 10-12 min.
6. While Pasta is cooking, melt Butter in now empty skillet.
7. Add Onions, BBQ Sauce and Brown Sugar. Cook about 6 min.
8. Stir in Flour, cook 1 min then whisk in Chicken Broth and White Wine.
9. Simmer until thickened about 2-3 minutes.
10. Stir in Cajun Seasoning.  
11. Add Kosher Salt to taste.
12. Temper Sour Cream with ⅓ cup of hot liquid from skillet.
13. Whisk Sour Cream into skillet.  
14. Add mushroom/meat mixture to skillet and simmer for 1 minute.
15. Spoon over drained and buttered Pasta in bowels.

Ingredient Notes
* Both Crocodile and Chicken work equally well in this Stroganoff. Use whichever is more readily available at your local grocery store.
** BBQ Sauce gives it a unique smokey flavor but Tomato Paste or Ketchup can be substituted.

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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