Fridays growing up

If you are old enough you’ll remember the days when all Catholics abstained from meat every Friday. It was common knowledge – even the moms of my non-Catholic friends knew that if I had been invited over on Friday night, then it would be mac-n-cheese. My mom was not Catholic, but she sent us to Catholic school, helped us with our catechism (CCD), and made sure we were ready to celebrate the sacraments.We ate dinner right after school since we had swim practice from 6-8 pm. So one Friday we came home to find dinner was hot dogs. And the moral debate began. Should we say something in case mom forgot? Should we honor our mother by obediently eating what was placed before us? In any case, it was many years ago, and the result was to honor our mother, and take the first forbidden bite of a hot dog on a Friday.

It was the most hideous, foul taste every encountered in the history of mankind. All manner of thoughts went through our minds. Was this a test from God that we had just failed and the memory of that forbidden bite would be forever seared into our memory? Would be expelled from the school and church by angels bearing flaming swords? In reality, it was only case of motherly love that did not play out as expected.

While grocery shopping she encountered the fiendish idea of a marketing product clearly targeting the Catholic consumers: tuna fish in a hot dog-looking skin/wrapper. You are thinking: what’s the problem, “I like tuna fish.” So do I. So did I. But not when I was expecting to enjoy all the All-American goodness of the fruit of the tree of life: the hot dog!

The name of the product was “Tunies.” Think I am spinning a yarn? Tunies were the creation of William Lane, who envisioned selling them to Catholics who couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. Lane also planned to expand his offerings to include Mar-tunies, a cocktail size hot dog, and Sea-lomi, a salami substitute. While there are those who speculate Tunies fell victim to the Pope’s decision to rescind meatless Fridays in 1967, there is no evidence of Tunies being sold after 1962. Thanks be to God.

meatless hot dog tunies

What is weirdly interesting is that the idea (1958) was not original to Lane. The 1949 there was a tuna-based hot dog, “The Friday Frank.” The product doesn’t seem to have been all that popular, but that didn’t stop another company, Bounty of the Sea, from attempting to produce a whole line of “hot dogs and assorted cold cuts made from tuna fish” in 1987. This time around, they were targeting dieters and other health-conscious folks, and the founder was optimistic: “We have the makings of a great new industry. I can see this being a $300-million company within five years.” The trend never caught on, and the company went out of business by 1990.

There are reports if you are a die-hard fan of the product concept, they are available on the Amazon-like Chinese site Alibaba.  If you order, expect supply chain delays unless you pay for express shipping. Caveat emptor.

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