Oh My Cod!
Wisconsin’s love affair with Fish Fries
It’s Friday night in a small town in Wisconsin and the smell of fried fish is in the air. This is true for pretty much every town in the state. If you’ve grown up in this state this is normal. But what if you’re from some warm weather climate that, God forbid, sells its fish covered in some kind of fruit sauce. You’d have no idea why these weirdos from up north take a simple everyday meal so seriously.
So why Friday? Why fried? And why fish? Well let’s start with the people that first settled this great state. Most of these people were Eastern European and Catholic. This means they were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. So the abundant fisheries of Wisconsin and the surrounding great lakes made this a perfect place for the Friday Fish fry tradition to get its start. When it comes to the process of cooking the fish let’s face it, fried things taste great! Plus it was easy to cook a large portion of fish with little trouble.
The popularity of the fish fry in the state got a very important bump in business from a very unexpected place. When the prohibition law of 1920 went into effect the owners of these establishments would give away free meals to drive business. More often than not it would consist of fried fish and potatoes. Even after the law was repealed in 1933 some establishments would still do Friday night community fish fries.
Today it is estimated that around one million fish fries are consumed each Friday in Wisconsin. That’s roughly 75% of all food consumed in restaurants that night. Long story short, if you’re in Wisconsin on a Friday night looking to grab a bite to eat, I’d get the fish.
You don’t want people to stare.