We’re kind of famous in Louisiana for seafood, but nothing beats the taste of the fresh seafood that is prepared during the Lenten season. Dining out in a Louisiana seafood restaurant during Lent is something you should add to your list of musts if you plan on visiting us in the late “winter” or early spring, just after Mardi Gras.
What is Lenten Season?
Faith and tradition still occupy a special place in South Louisiana. If you visit, you’ll find that religious traditions influence many aspects of our local culture. Foremost among these is the observance of the Lenten season.
From Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, a period of several weeks, the Catholic faith observes a time of fasting and prayer known as Lent. It is no surprise that Catholicism is still predominant among religions in Louisiana given the state’s history. French Catholics are believed to have held the first Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana way back in the 1700’s.
Once Mardi Gras has ended on Fat Tuesday, Lent begins. It is traditional during this period to avoid eating meat on Fridays. In fact, the word “carnival,” which is synonymous with Mardi Gras, comes from a Latin word which literally means to abstain from meat.
Seafood and Louisiana Culture
Our Cajun culture has strong ties to seafood. The reason for this is very practical. When our ancestors came here from Nova Scotia, they were dependent upon local wildlife for their very survival. It was only natural that they began to explore the local bayous and Gulf waters for food.
Fish, shrimp, crab and even alligator could be found in abundance throughout most of the year. The original Cajuns even turned to the muddy bottoms of the bayou to harvest crawfish. Seafood was often easier to catch than other game, and the Cajun people came up with many ways to prepare it.
Today, seafood is still a big part of our culture. Not only do we enjoy eating it, the local economy benefits from both local fishermen and commercial operations which harvest seafood throughout the year.
The Connection Between Lenten Season and Seafood
Seafood is considered an acceptable substitute for meat during the Lenten season. Many of our local restaurants will begin to offer special Lenten season menus after Ash Wednesday and seafood becomes more popular in the local shopping markets.
It isn’t hard to notice that eating seafood during Lenten season isn’t really a great sacrifice. Louisiana is the home of so many wonderful seafood dishes that no one could ever feel deprived. The importance is in honoring the tradition of our Cajun and Catholic ancestors. It helps us to preserve our unique cultural identity.
Which Seafood is in Season During Lent?
Virtually all of the various types of seafood that are popular in Louisiana are available during the Lenten season. The locals will tell you, however, that some varieties of seafood are at their best when freshly prepared during Lent.
Crawfish is uniquely identified with Louisiana, and crawfish season is perfectly timed with the observance of Lent. It begins in late February and runs all the way through Easter and into June. Every weekend during Lent features a crawfish boil somewhere in South Louisiana, and the experience is not to be missed when you come to visit.
Crab also comes into season during the latter part of February and can be enjoyed throughout the remainder of the year. Nothing beats fresh crab caught from our own Louisiana waters.
Those who want to try something a little more exotic will find that alligator is served up in many restaurants year-round. Some will claim, however, that it is best during the latter part of the year. The reason for this is that Louisiana strictly regulates the harvesting of alligators with a short fall hunting season.
If you love shrimp, wait until the last days of Lent to sample the local fare. Shrimp are in season from April until November. They also have a short season in January.
Now, you may be wondering why we are putting all of this emphasis on seafood being in season. The reason is pretty simple. While you can often find many of these delicacies at any time of the year, enjoying them in season is the way to guarantee freshness and the best taste!
You don’t have to be Cajun or Catholic to partake in our cultural traditions. We’ll welcome you as one of our own regardless. Once you enjoy fresh Louisiana seafood during the Lenten season, you’ll want to come back every year during this special time. But just in case you can’t make it…Cajun Grocer offers a wide selection of fresh, local seafood. From oysters and crabs to shrimp and crawfish, we locally source all of our seafood and ship it from Cajun Country straight to your door!