Name: Most Holy Name of Jesus
Date: March 4, 2016
Time We Ate: 5:30 PM
Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this Google maps collection. You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. Here is our general criteria:
In review, the factors we assess or review include:
- Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
- Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
- LGBTQ cultural competency
- Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers
We returned to Most Holy Name for a follow up visit. Read our previous review if you like. We wanted something local and this seemed fitting.
Our trip was slightly delayed by the need to find an ATM machine for cash. I must admit the luxury of being able to use a debit/credit card at another church has immediately spoiled me. But we found some cash and were on our way up to the summit. Narrow roads were annoying and the parking was very, very tight. At one point, my car was trapped in the lot because someone just decided to park where they were and I had to back out.
We made our way into the church where I promptly stumbled on a the slight step in front of a dozen people who just stared at me. I was quite taken aback that no one even asked if I was okay or seemed to react at all. Fortunately, Laura caught my arm. I was so taken aback that I said very loudly “I can’t believe no one asked me if I was okay.” To which someone said, “this way for orders.”
And that pretty much set the tone for the evening. We ordered two meals and had this awkward little dance as they sorted out that we were ordering together and paying as one. They handed us numbered sticks and sent us downstairs. We found seats in the back and settled in to watch.
The church is older and the furniture is a bit worn. They had fewer helpers and an underlying sense of weariness. It occurred to me that what I perceived as a lack of friendliness might be a much deeper part of a blue-collar parish. It wasn’t so much that we weren’t welcome as people wondering why on earth we would want to be there.
We ordered two meals. One was a fish sandwich and one was batter fried shrimp. There was a complicated side dish situation so we ended up with a dab of macaroni each plus some applesauce and coleslaw. The meal included water, lemonade and ice tea which was conveniently placed in the middle of the room with a wide range of dixie cup choices. We also had a ticket to redeem for a dessert from a side table with a warning to turn it in.
The fish was just meh, the coleslaw was a bit zippy with vinegar. The shrimp was actually quite fine, but the macaroni and cheese was terrible. Even the desserts were a little sad and tasteless. The pierogies were horrible. Dry, crunchy and chewy. It took me back to my mother’s cooking and that’s never a good thing. Someone either had a very bad day or needs to be retired from pierogie duty and move on to something else.
I mean it was terrible enough that it took me several days to write the review.
On the bright side, there were lots of little wins. The tables were neatly set with baskets of condiments. Youth volunteers bustled about taking care of things. It was easy to refresh our drinks. The room was decorated with many posters and flyers related to disability awareness.
And that takes me back to the thoughts I had about the culture of the various parishes. Certainly, the blessings of wealth and a school filled with eager volunteers and their organized parents makes a huge difference. Is the fish fry a fundraiser or friendraiser?
I’ve been to a lot of parishes over my lifetime. They aren’t typically the most welcoming spaces, perhaps because by their very nature people feel ownership – we are assigned to a parish even if we choose to go elsewhere. I don’t think protestants understand that ‘this is mine’ attachment. People have their pews, their parking spaces, their annual jobs and their way of doing things. It is natural that a fish fry reflects all of those things and more.
That’s why in some parishes, you’ll see LGBTQ families in the parish directory and in other parishes, you’ll see people unable to internalize that the two women standing before you are ordering on the same check and paying with one form of payment. And that’s okay.
Good food can offset a multitude of sins as can a great environment, but mediocre food combined with grumpy disaffected and unengaging volunteers is a recipe for disaster.
My heart feels a little sad for the small working class parishes that are losing their character in the face of big sunny suburbs. But not too much because well … you know.
Pros: shrimp was tasty, lots of beverages, young people who if limited in quantity hustled around, interesting historical artifacts, discussion of disability awareness. They did a good job of reusing items like tickets and sticks. Also, bringing out the various cups from other events.
Cons: the rest of the food was not good, even awful. no recycling efforts, almost zero engagement by the vast majority of those present, terrible parking situation (get a volunteer fireman out there pronto to keep things moving)
This fish fry could be magnificent. The infrastructure could be fixed – get someone in the parking lot with a flashlight, bring in volunteers to reduce the number on a stick system, a little customer service training, and so forth. The connection to St. Anthony’s Chapel and the relics could be HUGE to draw in folks from all over the region, especially hipsters with an interest in things like relics and accoutrements. It can be done respectfully and with the intent to educate. But the loss of the original chapel and the ensuing battle to get historical designation IS a story of reverse gentrification. It could connect this parish with the larger community rather than isolate it any further.
No other parish has that sort of cultural element built right in to the event.
I can’t really suggest you try this fish fry. It is just not very good either in terms of food or friendliness.
A few notes
- This coming weekend, we are invited to the monthly philly cheesesteak night at the Elks Lodge in Moon Township so we’ll probably skip fish fry night. We will review the cheesesteak. And the Irish entertainment.
- I’ll probably be compiling a list of suggestions on fish fries. I think the Diocese needs to step it up to reclaim their legacy from the service organizations and the food trucks. Given my vast insider knowledge of Catholicism, I plan to help them out with a detailed guide for next year.
And I must say that the story from Altoona weighs heavily on my heart. One reason people close ranks against outsiders is in response to a threat. But when evil is within your institution, you must strive toward the light to heal and move forward. As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma and a former parishioner of a known pedophile, this isn’t easy for me. I don’t want to dump all of that this particular parish and let the others off more easily because all seems light and well.
It was unfair for me not to point out that the former priest at St. James in Sewickley was part of the problem. I had simply blanked it out because he also used to be a parish priest in my home parish, the one sent to clean up after the really atrocious pedophile. I don’t see these fish fry reviews as some sort of happy little vacuum lacking the context of the institution, but sometimes I just forget. Sometimes I want to forget.
Don’t think this is an invitation for you to lecture me on my promotion of Catholic events. Let’s shut down that line of thought right now. I was there, my friends died, my friends continue to pay the price. I simply choose to explore the complexity of my identity rather than turn a blind eye – to anything.