I love getting my pantry (and mind) ready for the fasting portion of Lent. I sat down with my cookbooks and made a big grocery list to stock up on Lenten foods....ie: grains, nuts, legumes, veggies.
The first year we were Orthodox we were so lost about what to eat. I remember eating lots of bread, pasta, fries, and....fries. We were hungry, frustrated....and fat! Hmmmm. Not what I'd hoped for. Then there were the years I fully embraced the fasting allowance of shellfish. We had shrimp tacos, shrimp salad, shrimp fried, baked, sauteed. We were broke but not hungry. Then came more kids and more college and more chaos and less adherence to the fasting. We cut out fancy cuts of meat and treats like ice cream but not all meat and dairy...we were barely hanging on. Don't judge.
Which brings me to this year. The kids are older. We have a new established routine. I have a better grip on life here at home. We have successfully been maintaining the fast on Wed. and Fri. Yes, we fast on those days all year round. The kids (the middle two) have enjoyed learning why we fast and what we eat when we fast. Cam and I have set a plan for the fast this year. We will abstain from meat and will have some dairy....ie: milk, yogurt, cheese. Not ice cream. The kids are excited about the plan and so are we.
The spirit of the fast is what has to be the focus. To quote my priest, "If you fasted perfectly but were mean to your spouse, then all you did was go on a diet". The spirit of the fast is to draw us closer to God through fasting. The focus is not only the dietary guidelines but also to eat less, pray more, and give more to the poor.
Plus, eating a mostly Vegan diet is good for your body and the Earth too! Bonus! I'll be sharing some of our favorite Vegan recipes during Lent. You can also go to my friend's Lenten blog for more recipe ideas. Check out the prayer at the top of the page. It is my favorite. Our dear friends always sing it....brings tears to my eyes every time.
A word about shellfish. Because shrimp/crab/clams, etc. is allowed it is okay to eat them. However Cam and I have decided that indulging in expensive shellfish does not fit the spirit of the fast. We are choosing to eat less expensive meals (what is cheaper than bean soup?) and give more money away for almsgiving (another important aspect of Lent).
I read an article last year by Philip Mamalakis, PhD and his words have stuck with me. Here is part of what he says in the article.
"As Orthodox, we fast from food to be able to fast from sin. And it is our sin that keeps us from experiencing God fully. This connection between how we eat and how we sin is what the Fathers of the Church are clear on. This connection is also something that is lost in contemporary society. In America today, we don’t hear a lot about how fasting can help a marriage stay together or how a family can learn to love God through fasting. As a therapist, I see marriages fail because people cannot control how they act towards each other. Essentially the more we indulge ourselves in whatever we want, the more we become enslaved to our desires, rather than free to love. Fasting is not magic, but when we feast at the banquet of our souls through fasting we see God transforming our worldly desires towards His Kingdom. Opening up our marriages and families to fasting, opens up our hearts to be filled with the Grace of God and be truly free".