For those who are sick and tired of this gross photo of a mostly-cooked muskrat that was served at a Mount Pleasant house party a few weeks back, Young & Hungry apologizes. But as a helpful service to those observant Catholics, it should be noted that muskrat is OK to consume on Ash Wednesday and on meat-free Fridays during Lent. Sorta.
Why? Back in the early 1800s when Catholics in the Detroit area were starving, a French missionary, Father Gabriel Richard, said eating the amphibious rodent was OK during Lent because it lived in the water. It’s now a Lenten tradition in Detroit’s blue-collar downriver suburbs, where muskrat is pronounced MUSH-rat, which might be an apt description for how the meat feels in your mouth, depending how the rodent is cooked.
The Detroit Archdiocese communications department said there is a standing dispensation for Catholics downriver—in Detroit’s southern suburbs and below—to eat muskrat on Fridays, although no documentation of the original dispensation could be found.
A 2002 archdiocesan document on Lenten observances, in addition to outlining the general laws of fast and abstinence, says, “There is a long-standing permission —dating back to our missionary origins in the 1700s—to permit the consumption of muskrat on days of abstinence, including Fridays of Lent.”
Photo collage by Michael E. Grass