Northwest Indiana does fish fries right.
Region residents are devout in their faith, and just as devout about the fish fry tradition. Whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, Northwest Indiana's church-goers share a love of piping hot, deep-fried fish.
Every Friday during Lent, the faithful flock to churches, halls and lodges for glistening, golden fish, fished straight out of deep fryers manned by guys with nicknames like Stash.
The trappings are often simple: folding tables, metal chairs and paper plates. The causes are good: the proceeds get donated to community groups, veterans, or kids in need of organ transplants. The sides are abundant: pierogi, haluski, cottage cheese, stuffed cabbage, cole slaw, applesauce, Irish potatoes, tater tots, corn, rice, green beans, bread and butter, macaroni and cheese, and homemade bean soup. Volunteers pack some plates so full that you need to carry it back to your table with both hands, so nothing spills.
Sometimes, there's a cash bar. Often, there's a raffle.
The main attraction is, of course, the fish. Depending on which Knights of Columbus Hall or Masonic Lodge they go to, Region residents can have their fill of ocean perch, lake perch, smelt, cod, catfish, tilapia, Alaskan Pollack, crab cakes and of course frog legs, a time honored Northwest Indiana delicacy. Prefer shrimp? There's often large shrimp, small shrimp or fantail shrimp.
A few places offer all-you-can-eat fish.
Harried parents may be tempted to pull into a McDonald's drive-through to grab a Filet-o-Fish because it's quick and easy. But the fish fries offer a plethora of food and a sense of community. Neighbors and parishioners come together to break breaded planks of fish. They get a chance to catch up with acquaintances, classmates or the people in the next pew.
Every Friday during Lent, fish brings the Region together.