What Happened to the Oysters?

That was the Miss Manners’ opener to a Chicago Tribune reader’s question about whether to serve salad or soup first at a formal dinner [1]; she was, of course, referring to the appetizer, which would have probably been seafood, such as the afford mentioned oysters, or maybe shrimp.  In formal dinners (some with up to 20 courses – yes, the ones with sorbet, or “frozen punch”, before or after meat dishes), Miss Manners says that soup is always the second course, after the appetizer, and salad is served close to the end, before dessert and cheese.  Others agree with her on the matter of salad being served first in restaurants for practical reasons, because they are fast to prepare and easy to serve, and will keep guests from starving while waiting for their main courses.  Nowadays, many people are opting for what I call “consolidated courses”, in which a main dish, sides, salad and starch are all served at the same time (not necessarily on the same plate); the appetizer is omitted, and soup and dessert may or may not be included.  In this case, if soup is served, it would become the first course.

A great majority of Mexican families have stuck to this three-course format consisting of: soup, main/side/starch/salad, and dessert, continuing this tradition even when eating out or packing food for work.  This meal is eaten late in the afternoon, not in the evening; children will usually have theirs at home, right after school.

So, with no oysters (sorry Miss Manners), but with traditional Mexican dishes, I have prepared a three-course menu to be the topic of my next posts during this week, which corresponds to Holy Week in the Catholic and Protestant church calendars.  According to Wikipedia [2], as of 2010, 82.7% of the Mexican population was Catholic, with around 8% of other Christian denominations, such as Mormonism and Protestant churches.  Hence, during Lent, many Mexicans stop eating red meat, at least on Fridays, and especially during this Holy Week, until Easter Sunday (La Pascua, this Sunday, April 1, 2018).  Accordingly, my menu consists of: a vegetarian noodle soup, Mexican style (sopa de fideo); fish filets in garlic sauce, with a side of potatoes (filetes de pescado al mojo de ajo con papas); and for dessert, fresh fruit (fruta fresca).

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6 thoughts on “What Happened to the Oysters?

  1. I find the idea that in many countries that fish is not considered “meat” for religious purposes quite interesting. Do you know how this came about?

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    1. I’ve found this very interesting article
      https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/04/05/150061991/lust-lies-and-empire-the-fishy-tale-behind-eating-fish-on-Friday
      I guess the short answer is that cold blooded animals, such as fish, are the ones allowed. I always make the distinction of “red meat” because in the 1980s, there was a shortage of fish and seafood in Mexico, so it became a treat not a penitence to eat them; some priests encouraged people to eat chicken instead. Early Christians were much more strict, not allowing any animal products at all, and Orthodox churches still observe that rule.

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    1. Hi, Suzanne! I think they might like the soup and the fruit; the fish might be one of those compromises: grown-ups eat the garlic sauce, kids get a dip on the side. When I publish the recipes, I will make sure to offer some kid-friendly options.

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