Simon Kelner: For 40 days and 40 nights, fish will be my new religion

 

Share
Related Topics

I am not religious. I am not a militant secularist. I think Richard Dawkins talks a lot of sense, but then when I hear the Archbishop of York sermonise, I find it easy to get behind him, too. I even find myself in vigorous agreement with the speaker on "Thought for the Day", wishing that I could be similarly beatific. (Although when I fail to locate my glasses and I'm already late for work, and the dog still needs walking, I discover that I'm some distance from Godliness.)

I was born Jewish, and although I don't practise, I do feel that my religion is part of who I am. Philip Roth is one of my heroes, and I like to think that I understand things in his prose that non-Jewish readers just wouldn't get. And I believe that, when Woody Allen was funny (ie before he married his daughter), he'd touch a particularly Jewish nerve. His description in Annie Hall of the moral dilemmas in a Jewish household resonates most closely with my experience: "In my family," says Alfie Singer, "the biggest sin was to buy retail."

All of which is a preamble to my declaration that, as from today, I'm going to do something I've never done before: I'm about to follow a Christian tradition and observe Lent. This, most of you will know, is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, and comprises 40 days and 40 nights. During this time, the modern believer commits to giving up something that may be considered a luxury as a form of penitence. Chocolate or alcohol, for instance, are most commonly on the banned list these days. Twitter was alive yesterday with alternatives, and I especially liked the woman who asked whether, as she was to give up biscuits, this would include Iced Gems, "as the base is biscuity".

I, however, am going back to a more traditional era, a time when all animal products were strictly forbidden. I am not quite as hardline as the Catholic priest and philosopher Thomas Aquinas, who said in the 13th century that meat and dairy products "afford greater pleasure as food [than fish] and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust".

I don't necessarily buy that, but I have made a pledge: I am giving up meat for Lent. I have long been attracted by the argument that meat production causes massive environmental degradation, and many dietary experts say that eating only fish and vegetables will bring considerable health benefits. So while the framework for my period of abstinence comes from religious doctrine, the incentive for my own particular fast has a more practical grounding.

I have my first test at lunchtime when I'm being taken to one of London's most renowned steak houses. A sirloin, sir? Maybe a piece of grilled fish instead. No, I'm not religious. But for the next 40 days I might as well be.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine