Above, Social Club concludes another satisfying Fryday.
Left, Krista Senden anticipates a memorable meal.
By Diane Hageman
It's 5 p.m. Friday, the end of a long week. Most people hustle home to tend to families or personal commitments.
Not so for a group of College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University employees, informally known as the Social Club. For the six Fridays in Lent, this group of mostly 20- and 30-somethings observes a new Lenten tradition: a Fish Fryday Tour.
"It's just a great excuse to get together and share a meal," said Richard Crawford, facility operations manager for CSB/SJU Fine Arts Programming. "It's also fun to see some of these small parishes or legions and support a non-profit organization."
After each meal, club members rate the experience on ballots. So far this year, the group has visited Sacred Heart Parish in Freeport (voted the No. 1 fish fry last year), the American Legion in St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist Parish in Collegeville and St. Anthony Parish in St. Cloud. Between 11 and 34 people have attended the events this year.
Fish fry veteran Krista Senden, assistant director of the International Students Program, enjoys these outings with colleagues because "it's relaxing, light-hearted fun, and I like fish! It's also a great way to meet other young professionals."
On a recent rainy Friday at St. Anthony's, the group of 27 came in staggered in small clusters, taking their places in line. Heaping helpings of fish, baked beans, au gratin potatoes, coleslaw and bread were dished up to each patron. Seconds were encouraged.
The group fanned out over a couple of tables. Once seated, they chatted easily among themselves and the other tables. Parishioners and other patrons stopped at the tables to visit.
Then came the hard part: judging the food. Richard had a put together a rubric, with slots to judge the fish, side dishes, desserts, ambiance, parking and bathrooms. The consensus was that the fish was excellent, hand-breaded, light, not greasy. Richard predicted it was a "knock-down, drag-out fight between Freeport and St. Anthony's." Points were lost for not having dessert. The restrooms were judged "immaculate but chilly."
The group planned an extended outing March 19 to St. Albert's the Great in Minneapolis. Richard considers St. Albert's the "top dog in fish fries, complete with fish costumes and bingo. You can't beat that!" They decided to include a Twin Cities venue so that CSB and SJU employees who live in or closer to the Twin Cities could more easily attend the fish fry. They planned to extend the evening watching CSB employee Jon Bruns perform in the band Straight 90's at Lee's Liquor Lounge.
At the end of Lent, they will announce the best fish fry for the 2010 season, and bestow awards for best attendance. Last year, after Lent, the group trekked to Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud for the informal awards ceremony.
Richard says there's little doubt that the tour will continue in 2011. If you'd like to join the group for the last stop on the tour this year or be included next year, e-mail Richard at [email protected].
(Posted March 19, 2010)