Cottrel: New Carlisle church has best fish fry

Giving up something for Lent is a custom that many Christians practice. For some of us that means eating fish instead of meat on Fridays during the Lenten season. This was originally meant to be a self denial and a refusal of something that is preferred, like beef or pork.

However, since I love fish, I find myself feeling a little bit guilty during Lent. It is the time of fish fry events and fish specials at many restaurants and I’m embarrassed to say how much I enjoy this part of the season.

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One of my favorite places for fish on Friday is the wonderful Fish Fry at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Carlisle. Actually, it is in the Father Paul Vieson Center, 209 W. Lake Avenue and is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

These dinners take place from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday evening during Lent except for Good Friday.

The first time I went I worried that this dinner might be just for members of the parish, but all the smiles that have welcomed me into the center have erased my misgivings. The tables were filled with groups of friends and families. I even sighted some friends from Enon, Tipp City and Mad River Township mixed in the crowd. This is a welcoming community dinner.

The meal includes all the baked or fried cod you can eat, french fries or a baked potato with sour cream, green beans, applesauce, salad and pie for dessert. Grilled cheese sandwiches are an option that the kids love. This is a very filling meal and well worth the $10. Seniors pay only $9 and children pay even less. The meals can also be ordered “To Go” which can be a great option for our busy lives.

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The ladies taking the money didn’t even bat an eye when I ordered seven meals to go. I was impressed by how quickly they got my big order together.

The kitchen crew is quite a cheerful bunch with funny aprons and big smiles. I didn’t see him, but I was told that Father Tom Nevels was in the middle of it all washing dishes. Someone even volunteered to help me carry the bags out.

Mike Engle is managing the event this year, but was unavailable to talk, so Dick and Pat Kraus filled me in on the history of the dinners.

“We’ve been doing this since the mid-1980s,” Dick Kraus said. “I’ve been involved since 2002.”

I’d already met Pat when she had cheerfully helped me get all the dinners, sauces and pies into the bags.

As Dick Kraus explained, this is the biggest social event for the church. Last Friday in the hall he had friends who drove up from Centerville and Mason.

“We think it’s the best fish fry in the Archdiocese,” he added.

And I was not about to disagree.

Part of what makes it great is the recipe that the group has used from the beginning for the breading on the fish. Kraus told me it was developed by the late Charlie Ambruske.

This Fish Fry takes more than a one day a week to prepare. There is something that has to be done almost every day to have things ready on Friday.

Kraus explained that they buy the cod on Wednesday, then thaw and cut it on Thursday. On Friday, they make the breading and get ready to cook. Meanwhile, supplies must be purchased. The potatoes are washed, wrapped in foil and baked by another group. The applesauce is measured into small containers. Some parish members bake pies and others pies are purchased. Pies are cut into pieces and put on plates for serving.

“All ages work on this. Everybody pitches in and it’s a really good time,” Kraus said.

Profits from everyone’s efforts will be shared by the Parish and the Knights of Columbus, which will donate to a variety of charities.

In other words the hard work, warmth and generosity of this community will help the needy in many different ways.

Maybe I shouldn’t feel so guilty about loving fish during Lent after all.

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