Dear Maggie – February 15, 2024

Dear Maggie —

I see that tickets are for sale again this year for the Lent Fish Fry at SMOS. Last year, we were new to the school and failed to get our tickets in time before they were all sold out. Who knew a fish fry would be so popular?? Those tickets go like hotcakes (which is not to be confused with the Cub Scouts Pancake Dinner in Lent also!). We learned our lesson and bought our tickets early this time around. But I’m also seeing that you’re in need of volunteers and I’m intrigued… partly because I’m curious about the people who run it each year. So my question for you is – who in the heck are the Feastie Boys?!?

— Floundering Phil

Dear Floundering —

Ha! I’m so glad you asked. The Lenten Fish Fry is one of my favorite events at SMOS, and definitely one of the most fun volunteer gigs to sign up for. “Old-timers” will often say it’s the best kept secret! It’s just a rollicking good time – and largely due to the folks who work the kitchen and prepare all of the meals. Now don’t get me wrong… they work hard – but there’s also a lot of laughter, and boy those people know how to have a good time. Some of them even dress up in costumes for the occasion! And the food they make is really good too – I’m no schlub, bub, when it comes to Fish Frys, and let me tell you, this holds up to anything else I’ve had. Bernie, Terry, and I make a habit of hitting up all of the fish frys in South City each year, and this one is top-notch!

Now, as for the Feastie Boys – this was a group that formed almost ten years ago from the parishioners and parents at the school, when SMOS brought back it’s meatless Friday dinners for the parish organizations. In fact, the first year they sold grilled cheese and not fish! But then, a providential partnership with the PTA to restart the parish fish fry (long ago, it was a weekly event), plus a request from 4 Hands to create a special batter (the first of it’s kind!) using their Citywide beer – and the Feasties were soon to be part of SMOS lore. Not really “boys” – these men (and women too!) are dedicated to this one event every year. Formed and helmed by Chef Dan Stark, along with Tom Reitenbach and Dave Drebes who make up the original core group – the actual “members” of the Feastie Boys can change from year to year, and usually includes about 8-10 cooks and servers.

The food is prepared in fry kettles outside, on the cement courtyard between St. Joe and Faith Halls at the school – since we no longer have a working kitchen at the school, all of the equipment and gear needs to be brought in to produce about 500 dinners. (Kind of reminds me of my fish boil days in Edinburgh – trust me, fried fish is a much better way to go. Trying to sell watery fish served out of a giant cauldron presented its own unique challenges!) And yes, in case you’re wondering, the secret recipe for the batter still uses Citywide as its beer-base. Even I haven’t been able to get my hands on the ingredient list, and I’m the parish patroness!!

It’s amazing to see it run so smoothly each year. Rain or shine – the fish fry goes on, but not without some hiccups along the way! There was the one year they tried to do mac and cheese, but without ovens, they had to cook it at people’s houses, and then had runners parading hot pans of M&C around the neighborhood, as they made their way to school. The Feasties even dealt with a tornado last year, and still managed to feed everyone that came to eat! When the winds blew the tents into the dumpsters, several of the men held things down during the storm while the fryers continued to cook. (In hindsight, maybe not the smartest move – but I do believe that not all of that Citywide makes it into the batter every year, if you know what I mean – so a little liquid courage might have been on display!) Actually, only Covid has been able to take them down, but if it weren’t for a global pandemic shutdown, I’m certain they would have still been there.

So, I hope this helps shed some light on what makes the SMOS Fish Fry so special – and maybe this will even spur you past curiosity into volunteering and becoming an official Feastie yourself! I know they would appreciate the help – so flounder no more, Phil… if it’s fish you’re after, then carp 😉 diem and seize the day!

— Maggie


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