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Memories of a Middle Eastern Fish Fry

AS A PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN, raised in Nazareth near the Sea of Galilee, I remember my family observing “Fish Fridays” all through my childhood. Abstaining from red meat was a religious ritual (in the early days of Christianity, the church designated Friday as a day of fasting). But since my father adored fish, a love he passed down to all of us, Fish Fridays never felt like a deprivation.

When you’re in a minority, as Christians are in the Middle East, you tend to cherish simple traditions that make you feel part of a larger community. For us, it was this seafood feast—which included my extended family and neighbors—that had us gathered around the table for hours. To ensure we got the best catch, my father would wake up before the sun rose to be one of the first customers at the fishmonger’s counter. He’d bring back hamour, a prized grouper from the Persian Gulf, and delicate barbonies from the Mediterranean. Anything that came from those salt-saturated waters didn’t even need to be seasoned.

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