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In cod we trust (and perch and walleye): In search of the perfect fish fry | Under Rocks Podcast

For six Fridays every year, temporary restaurants pop up in churches, clubs, and community buildings across the Midwest. Menus may vary, but they stick with one theme. Fish. Fried fish.

They’re a tradition for Christians, especially Catholics, who are out to avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent, the annual 40-day holy observance leading up to Easter Sunday. But the Friday night fish fry nowadays transcends religion and sometimes even the Lenten season: You’ll see as many, if not more, in bars or fast-food restaurants.

The Under Rocks team took on the challenge of tracking down authentic Midwestern fish fries and asking the tough questions: What makes them special, who profits, what’s the connection to Prohibition, and most importantly…perch or walleye?

First, a briefing by Cynthia Clampitt. She is an advisor with the group Culinary Historians of Northern Illinois. Her latest book is called "Destination Heartland: A Guide to Discovering the Midwest’s Remarkable Past."

Susan Stephens
Mac & Cheese were showstoppers at the DeKalb Knights of Columbus

Next, we broke into teams and hit the streets, with listener recommendations in hand. Time restrictions, work commitments, and weak stomachs limited us to just three fry sites near our DeKalb HQ. But oh, were they worth it.

Knights of Columbus, 1336 E. Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL: Only open during Lent.

American Legion Post 312, 203 Main St, Maple Park, IL: Third Friday each month, except December. Menu may vary.

Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church, 5N939 Meredith Rd, Virgil, IL: Only open during Lent.

Susan Stephens
A patriotic plateful at the American Legion in Maple Park

Got a favorite? Tell us about it at rocks@niu.edu or wnij.org/youask. Or let us know what's interesting, weird, or delicious in your neck of the woods!

Thanks to our extended Under Rocks crew this episode: Claire Buchanan, Jared Ortega, Eric Hradecky, Jason Cregier, Austin Cliffe, Dan Libman, Spencer Tritt, and Susan Stephens.

We're grateful for our guests Kathy Volkening, Chris Rebone, Kim Williams, and Cynthia Clampitt.

Under Rocks is produced by WNIJ at Northern Illinois University.

Dan Libman is an author, teacher, correspondent, and adventurous host of the WNIJ podcast Under Rocks.
Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
Spencer's creativity shows up in a variety of spaces on-air and online for WNIJ. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Communications and Digital Media Production. Spencer's interest in multimedia comes from a mix of his love for arts and music with an interest in technology.
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