Memories of Lenten Family Recipes

Food line at Andre House, Phoenix

This Lent, Holy Cross religious and chefs at our community houses, have submitted some of their favorite Lenten recipes. We are pleased to share them with you along with others we found. Please visit our“Recipes for Lent” board on the U.S. Province Pinterest page ( We are also posting them on our Facebook page ( Check back often, new recipes will be pinned frequently.

When I was a kid during World War II, Lent was one of our favorite times for food dishes. Having recently emerged from the Great Depression, we didn’t have too many resources and we relied on relatively simple ideas that actually turned out to be gourmet dishes, at least for us.

My Mom was a great cook, but I think her greatest energies and creativity came out during Lent, especially on Fridays. I come from a family of five, Mom, Dad, an older sister, and a younger brother. On Friday evenings, we would all gather in our rather small kitchen, electric stove against the back wall and the kitchen table a few feet away in the center of the kitchen, quite cramped but very workable. My mother would often make crepes. She would fry up a nice large crepe, turn around and place it on a large platter in the center of the table where my Dad, sister, brother and I would immediately commence to lather it with butter and shake large quantities of powdered sugar and cinnamon all over it. Then we would roll it up and cut the crepe into good size pieces and begin to savor its goodness. Even before we finished the first crepe, my Mom would place another on the plate and we would gratefully prepare and dispatch it, all the time giggling, faces full of powdered sugar and fully enjoying the moment and each other.

Other Lenten meals would include: macaroni and cheese (with lots of cheese), tuna casserole, vegetable lasagna and a myriad of egg dishes — fried, scrambled, poached, hard and soft boiled and some of the most exotic omelets imaginable. Meatless spaghetti and various other meatless pasta dishes were also included.

Another favorite of ours was homemade German potato pancakes covered with homemade applesauce.

My grandfather on my father’s side lived in Delaware and would, once in a great while, send us a large can of oysters by train from the Chesapeake Bay. They would be packed in dry ice and would come in the baggage car of the train overnight. Mom would make oyster chowder, fried oysters, and Dad would simply enjoy eating them raw like popcorn (something I learned to do much later).

Sardine sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would sometimes be the featuredentree for a Friday dinner.

These are some, but not all, of the dishes that we enjoyed and were involved with as a family. Lent was a special time for my family. We lived it together — both at the dinner table, but also in church at Mass, the Stations and, of course, the splendor of Holy Week and Easter. At times, family life was a bit hard, but the memories of Lent always bring pleasant memories back into my mind and heart. It was a time when I think we really appreciated how the important things in life, simple food and family relationships and values, were an essential priority that nurtured us both in body and soul.


Rev. Charles W. Kohlerman, C.S.C., is the Superior of the Holy Cross community house, Our Lady of Fatima House, in Notre Dame, Ind. Fr. Charlie was received into the Congregation on Aug. 15, 1953; professed First Vows on Aug. 16, 1954 and Final Vows on Aug. 16, 1957. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1963. Fr. Charlie celebrated his 50th Jubilee in 2013.

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