Lenten Trivia

Q. During previous seasons of Lent, you’ve provided in this column some interesting Lenten trivia, such as the medieval origins of pretzels as a penitential Lenten food, and the revelation that in some parts of Michigan, instead of fish fries during Fridays in Lent, some Catholic parishes have muskrat barbecues! Any other interesting Lenten trivia?

A. Well, it might be interesting to note that the twelfth-century Welsh chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis, in his Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin Through Wales, reported that “in Germany and the Arctic regions,” some “great and religious persons” eat the tail of beavers as “fish,” given that it has a superficial resemblance to “both the taste and the color of fish.” That food would certainly be penitential for me!

Another curious Lenten fact, much more to my liking: Today many Catholics give up candy and other sweets for Lent. But St. Thomas Aquinas approved of the consumption of candy during Lent, because he considered “sugared spices” (such as sugar-coated fruits, nuts, or seeds) to be digestive aids that were more like medicine than food.