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Not eating meat during Lent can lead to fish on Fridays
Fatty seafood can reduce the risk of heart disease
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Atlanta Highway Seafood Market owner Phuong Le dresses up his fresh fish display last week. - photo by NAT GURLEY

For a baked salmon dijon, see recipe.

Many faithful Catholics find eating fish is good for the soul as well as the body.

During the season of Lent, many Catholics choose to abstain from meat on Fridays and instead serve a meal centered around a vegetable or fish. Fish is not considered meat in the church because it doesn’t live on the land.

Eric Hill, pastor of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Flowery Branch, said hundreds of reasons have been given over the years for why fish is appropriate to eat on Fridays. Reasons vary from a sacrificial idea of abstaining from the pleasure of eating meat to an attempt by the church to bolster fish trade.

Hill said the modern reason to continue the tradition is to do something that sets Friday apart from the other days of the week since it is said to be the day Jesus died upon the cross.

“I think it’s become now a way of marking that day as being different and sacrificial,” Hill said. “But for me it’s not sacrificial because I love fish.”

Regardless of religious beliefs, replacing a meat with fish once or twice a week can improve physical health.

According to an analysis of 20 studies by the Harvard School of Public Health, eating one to two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon or anchovies, a week reduces the risk of heart disease death by 36 percent. The analysis also found one in five Americans eat the recommended amount of fish.

Depending on its preparation, seafood can be lower in calories than other meats.

Phuong Le, owner of Atlanta Highway Seafood Market in Gainesville, added fish is very quick and easy to prepare. It often takes less than 10 minutes to cook.

The market sells a variety of Gulf-caught seafood from its restaurant and market on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville.

With so many different fish — and tastes — in the sea, finding the type that appeals to your palate isn’t difficult. For people who don’t like fish that tastes, well, “fishy,” Le recommends grouper, red snapper or mahi mahi.

“Those are all very mild,” Le said. “Those fish you can fry, you can grill ‘em or broil or blacken it.”

Le said making a delicious fish meal is all in the seasoning. He provides customers with a citrus blend when they purchase seafood from the market.

“A lot of people like a blackened fish, like a blackened tilapia,” Le said. “That’s pretty easy to do. You can get blackened seasoning anywhere.”

Cooking blackened fish is as easy as applying the seasoning and pan searing it in an iron skillet. Fish is done cooking when it flakes easily.

“We also like a soup, a clam chowder or a crab bisque,” Le said.

Le said he doesn’t use exact measurements but does have a “basic idea” in mind when he makes clam chowder.

He starts by sautéing celery and onion with butter and a spoonful of flour in a pan to make a roux. He adds cream, potatoes, clam juice and clams and cooks until finished. He seasons the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

“It’s a very simple clam chowder,” Le said.

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