So here’s a declaration I’d never pondered before. Given that my access to fresh alligator fit for consumption is poor at best (given also my general non-religiousness), whether or not it is permissible to consume dishes containing elements of my scaly, delicious friends during the season of Lent—a period marked by personal sacrifice, during which Catholics abstain from eating meat but can still eat seafood—has never been an issue for me. While I get off the hook rather easily on that topic, however, it has long been a point of contention in my adopted second home of New Orleans, Louisiana, where gator meat is cooked and consumed in a variety of ways and in far greater volume than in my current city of residence. At some point, according to a recent article in NPR’s The Salt, the debate over whether alligator in fact qualifies as seafood, thus making it a viable meal option for Catholics during the forty days preceding Easter, grew heated enough to incite action from a Covington, LA alligator wrangler by the name of Jim Piculas. In 2010, Mister Piculas inquired on the matter in a letter sent to New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond with hopes of settling the debate once and for all.
Based on the archbishop’s written response, he seems to feel, doubtless to the delight of gator-loving Louisiana Catholics far and wide, that alligator can indeed be considered seafood. You can check out the entire article here as well as hear audio and read a transcript of the All Things Considered interview in which NPR’s Tina Antolini talks with Jim Piculas about it. As one who loves the taste of alligator tail, whether it’s grilled, blackened, or swimming in gumbo and jambalaya, my closing thoughts are thus:
1. I wish I was in New Orleans right now. (this is rarely untrue, regardless of the season)
2. Certainly the archbishop’s setting the record straight as he has must constitute the ultimate Lenten Lagniappe.