We had a proper mash-up of a pre-Lent celebration this year. Toby got the idea that it was a party, and wanted to decorate, so I dug out some carnival beads that we got as freebies a few years ago. He also made a picture.
All that somehow put the idea into my head to go Cajun for dinner (New Orleans Mardi Gras and all that) so I tweaked my menu to include blackened fish (recipe below) and a very approximate vegetarian version of dirty rice. The real thing, I discovered, uses chicken livers to provide the "dirty", which are not ingredients I tend to have lurking in the fridge.
And then, of course, we had to have proper English pancakes for dessert. With lemon juice and sugar, which is traditional, and with applesauce, Greek yoghurt and golden syrup, which is not. But tastes fantastic.
The one thing I did not do, I realised, was any shriving. Confessing my sins and receiving absolution. Starting Lent with a clean sheet.
It's a central tenet of the Christian faith that we are all sinners. But I guess I can't be alone in not feeling much like a sinner. Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, there are things I wish I hadn't done. But that no-health-in-us-miserable-sinner thing? Um. Well. Not really. Do you?
So I was sat here wondering what to say about that. Is it OK not to feel like a sinner? Is there anything we can do about it? And are you just all waiting for me to get to the blackened fish recipe anyway?
But on the desk I am sitting at, there is a photo of a cross. On the base of the cross is an inscription. I had to lean forward to remind myself what it says. It reads: Christus regit. Christ reigns. Christ is king - king on a cross.
Despite how it can often feel, Christianity is not about manufacturing suitable emotions. Christianity is a statement of fact. Christ reigns. I do not. However sinful I do or do not feel, Lent is a time of moving myself from a throne to a cross, in order that Christ may move from a cross to a throne. There are deliberate acts that can help me to do that, that have been developed by the church down through the centuries. And one, unsurprisingly, is confessing my shortcomings. Shriving.
I may have missed Shrove Tuesday this year. But maybe I'll own up to being a sinner after all.
(And yes, here's the fish recipe.)
Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
At this point, if there's only 2 of you, you can halve the spice mixture and put half in a jar for another time. Then add just half the ingredients below.
To the spice mix add:
2 cloves garlic, mashed or grated
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Use the mixture to coat four fish fillets, of whatever variety you prefer. Heat a good heavy non-stick frying pan. Cook fish 3-4 minutes on each side until spices are blackened and fish is cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges. This has a definite kick to it. so reduce the cayenne if you're not into Cajun spiciness!