Skip to content
Alligator Face - © 2024 Brian Imparato - via Nat. Wildlife Fed.

Lenten Cuisine: Capybara, Alligator and Beaver? Oh, My!

Lent us upon us: The 40-day period before Easter in which Christians observe certain dietary traditions. Not the least of which is not eating meat on Fridays. But there are many meat alternatives Lenten penitents can access. Some quite unusual…

Beaver - © 2020 - Jeff CreationA 17 th Century Bishop in Canada declared the beaver officially a fish – for
Lenten dining purposes. His justification? They swim in water…

The official word

“Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter that many of the Christian faith use as a time of reflection and prayer,” Food & Wine explains. “In 2024, Lent runs [from] February 14 to March 28. During that time, those who observe may also abstain from luxuries (this is why so many of your friends may be saying ‘no thanks’ to chocolate right now) or personal habits, and also refrain from eating meat on Fridays. However, ‘meat’ is somewhat of a tricky term. So, in 2010, one inquisitive Catholic in Louisiana wrote a letter to his local archbishop to ask for clarification. Specifically, if he could continue to enjoy alligator […] on Fridays.”

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond replied: “Yes, the alligator is considered in the fish family. “I agree with you, God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana and it is considered seafood.”

Which begs many similar questions…

A wide range of reptiles and amphibians OK

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) published an opinion that turtles, snakes, iguanas, and tortoises would be okay to eat during Lent.

Beer pours both ways

CNA also revealed that 17th Century monks did a beer fast for Lent. On the other hand, the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is holding a Beer Fest this Lent. The event is in support of its ongoing ‘Feed The Hungry’ program. The justification for this apparent lapse of Lenten etiquette? In the 17 th century, Germany’s Paulaner monks (see photo, top of page), “turned to a common staple of the time of their region — beer — to sustain them through their strict, no-solid-food fast during the Lenten season.”

Beavers are officially ‘fish’

According to Scientific American, ‘Once Upon A Time, The Catholic Church Decided That Beavers Were Fish’. The rationale ran, since beavers swim in the water, they could be considered OK to eat during Lent. Same with their distant cousins, the Capybara of South America.

What do vegans give up?

If meat is the ‘main course’ issue relating to self-denial during Lent, what do vegans give up?

“Essentially, I do away with luxuries for the duration of Lent,” Kelly Ann Carpentier, a historian and writer from New Haven, Connecticut, told the CNA. “There are a plethora of vegan versions of mainstream items such as baked goods and ice cream. I abstain from these types of items all together, which is quite penitential given my sweet tooth. It requires you to be very disciplined and intentional not to seek out such items or to have the luxury of a cup of [vegan] hot cocoa.”

My take

The basic precepts of Lenten dietary prohibitions remain strict. But they also remain open to interpretation, given the right circumstances, and the social times in which exceptions are sought. offers a list of Lenten dining guidelines which the devout should find helpful…

~ Maggie J.

© 2024 Maggie J's FFB - Hover pointer over image to view image copyright information