Alligator, Beaver, and Capybara Are All OK Additions to Your Lent Menu

During Lent, alligators may change from reptiles to seafood, depending on where you live.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Looking for dishes you can still enjoy over Lent? May we suggest some tasty alligator recipes? Don’t worry. It’s been approved by some religious authorities.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the parameters of Lent, here’s a quick breakdown: Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter that many of the Christian faith use as a time of reflection and prayer. In 2024, Lent runs between 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 meat on Fridays.

"Concerning the question if alligator is acceptable to eat during the Lenten season ... yes, the alligator is considered in the fish family," Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond wrote in his return letter. Aymond also noted his agreement with the letter sender's love for alligators, adding, “I agree with you, God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana and it is considered seafood.”

Related: Can Catholics Have Meat on St. Patrick's Day? It Depends Where They Live

Other Catholic resources agree, including the Holy Spirit Parish, a Christian community located in the Almaden Valley of San Jose, California.

“Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep, or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat,” the community’s website explained (pulling information from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website).  The site further noted that salt and freshwater species of fish and shellfish, including amphibians and reptiles — like alligators — are permitted throughout Lent. But the community does note that these same shellfish (aka that all-you-can-eat lobster) can also be considered a “luxury,” which, as you read above, is a no-go.

However, the Holy Spirit Parish's website noted that there are other loopholes to the meat rule, saying, “Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, bouillon cubes, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat, are technically not forbidden.”

This leads to other technical questions, and of course, restrictions vary by region and diocese, so if you have any concerns, please check with your local church authorities. But as the Catholic News Agency explained, turtles, snakes, iguanas, and tortoises should be fair game too. And, according to Scientific America, in the 17th century, the Bishop of Quebec told everyone they could eat beaver meat on Fridays too, since they swim a lot in rivers (along with capybara for those living in South America). And snails fall under the same shellfish category as above, so here’s an escargot recipe that will get you through the Lenten season. Apologies, as we don’t have a beaver recipe on Food & Wine … yet. 

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