Saturday, March 5, 2016

Don't Hate Me because I am Not Native: Fish Fries and the Labyrinth

I moved to St. Louis in December of 1998, a fresh eyed Californian grateful to be on a full ride. One thing that was immediately apparent was the massive amount of Catholic influence. I knew one Catholic in high-school, but it definitely appears to be the dominant religion here.

This influence colors the region in a variety of ways, there are Saints everywhere you look, and Lent means Friday Fish Fries. Somehow I managed to miss out on that action for the first 18 years of living here, but yesterday I changed all that.

To be honest, I may have attended one early on, but it was college, and I wasn’t a Saint, so things can be fuzzy at times.

But, before we get to fish fry, let me tell you a little story about a 37 year old watching Labyrinth for the first time.

For a while my circle was doing weekly movie nights. When they found out I had never seen the Labyrinth they lost their minds. HOW. COULD. I. HAVE. NOT. SEEN. THAT. MOVIE? Clearly, it was next week’s selection. As we piled into Julie’s and Vinnie’s living room, sprawling ourselves across coaches and chairs, I was ready to have my mind awakened, to witness the missing piece to my childhood, to experience cinematic greatness. What I saw was one of the most ridiculous, corny, films I had ever seen. The acting was horrible, and the production was abysmal, but they LOVED it. It was as if the seed that had been planted so many years ago, rooted itself so deeply, that it was altering reality. The memory of the magic was far greater than the reality of the movie itself. The only thing we could agree on was there was some SERIOUS moose knuckle going on. 

That was my fish fry.

From an outsider’s perspective, I think the fish fry is more about nostalgia than great food. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t awestruck. I didn’t find myself lamenting over the flavors tangoing across my tongue. I didn’t stare down at my plate wondering how they made this magical fish like I have done when eating meals at Niche, Home (RIP), Southern, Juniper, Three Flags Tavern, and Quincy Street Bistro, to name a few. For the locals, the diehards, you are probably thinking I didn’t go to a good one. Well, that may be, but I went to the one that got the most votes on my SM poles, so some people clearly think it is good. And no, I will not say where I went. That is not the intent of this post.

The point is, I suspect the memories of those early fish fries, the running around the gym floor with your friends while your parents talked politics in their best Charlie Brown voices, the first bites of freshly fried fish after waiting in the eternal line, the greasy French fries that filled your hungry little bellies, those moments of freedom and satiation left such an indelible impression that you still look forward to the experience thirty years later. This, folks, is the magic of the mind.

Will I go again?


Teddy thought it was the best fish he had ever had, and Wendy Mae loved her shrimp. I don’t want to take that from them, but I’ll be going in knowing it is the Labyrinth, not Dead Poets Society

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