At Our Lady of the Rosary Fish Fry in Dayton, the unusual appearance of a sausage on the menu.
One of the things you won’t find at a Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky Catholic Lenten fish fry is meat of any kind. It’s all about the fish and of course, the tarter sauce. But travel north less than 50 miles to Dayton Ohio, and it’s unusual not to find sausage on the menu at a Catholic Church fish fry. In fact, many of them are called Fish Fry and Sausage Dinners. But why would Dayton Catholics test their faith?
There’s no special papal dispensation that I have been able to find that allows Dayton Ohio Catholics to eat their native Slavic and German sausages on Fridays during Lent. Well, the fish fry(s) that do include the sausage options are either held on Fridays outside of Lent or on Saturdays during Lent, so Dayton Catholics don’t have to break the fast. Many of the old legacy Catholic churches in Dayton had strong Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian and German influences from the early immigrants whose behinds lined their pews. If they were held on a Lenten Friday, the meat option might have been the smartest business move for a Catholic fundraiser to bring in other non-fasting, non- Catholics into their donation box.
The Amber Rose is the last remnant of that Eastern European influence in Dayton. It’s the only place in Dayton, Ohio, that you can still find cabbage rolls, pierogis, and chicken paprikash on the menu. They even have sauerkraut balls.
But back to the sausages. There is something called the Waldorf sausage that makes its way out in the Dayton public for these Lenten Fish Fry and Sausage Dinners. Holy Trinity Parish carries the Old Focke’s Meats recipe for their all pork smoked Waldorf Sausage. Our Lady of the Rosary, with a strong Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian and German influence, has both Waldorf and Hot Polish Sausage at their Fish fry. The Antioch Shrine has an Annual Lenten Fish Fry and Sausage Dinner.
A 1963 ad for the beloved Focke & Sons Waldorf Sausage.
The Focke’s Waldorf Recipe is from the William Focke and Sons Meat Company in Dayton, which was founded in 1875 by Bernadina Focke, a German immigrant, and said to be Dayton Ohio’s first female business owner. She set up a card table selling meat at the Dayton Arcade, and nearly 100 years later her family business was a Dayton icon.
The meat business was passed along to Bernadina’s sons and lasted to 1972. Their Waldorf all pork sausage became a beloved Dayton local sausage and the recipe outlasted its business.
So if you want a true test of faith go to a Dayton area Saturday fish fry, but don’t worry – you won’t break the fast.