If we took a break from visiting God’s churches, we were certainly visiting God’s country.
As we drove to the Mt. Pleasant Township Fire Hall fish fry, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the rolling hills and beautiful landscape. Fully aware of the proximity to the city, I hoped the Lenten cuisine would be as enjoyable as the country aesthetics.
The minute we parked and were greeted with smiles, I took it as a good sign. Sometimes people hide when they see us coming (or at least they should), so I appreciated what I could only assume was the benefit of the doubt.
To my surprise, the Mt. Pleasant Fire Hall offered a fish fry with a foyer. We walked through what seemed like a large, empty coat room before reaching the dining area. As always, I ordered for us. We enjoyed a sampling of the fish sandwich, butterfly shrimp, pierogi, cole slaw, French fries, desserts and condiments.
The fish sandwich was honestly the best I’ve tasted during the entire tour. Earlier in the season, someone told me a fish sandwich was nothing without a good bun, and that lesson made sense to me this week. The fish was lightly breaded and extremely crispy, which paired nicely with soft, bakery buns.
Other than being turned off by the tartness of the cole slaw, the side dishes and shrimp were on par with what we’ve had elsewhere.
The chocolate bundt cake and lemon cake made for fun desserts. I’m a front-row fan of lemon, enjoying it in my tea, sauces, centerpieces, sprinkled on fruit dishes, and in popsicles and desserts. I was extremely pleased that there was enough lemon in the cake to wake up someone after fried food and refined carbohydrates.
Aside from my dinner companion—who I sometimes compare to "Pygmalion’s" Eliza Doolittle before the manners—I was quite charmed. From the people who talked to me in line and recommended the desserts to the kind servers and fellow diners, I was again impressed with the quality of character in Washington County.
Maybe it’s because my dad is a volunteer fireman, but I’ve always been happy to support volunteer fire departments. It’s not just the brave sacrifices they make to keep us safe—though that’s a lot of it—they also lend their hall for holiday bake sales, Christmas events with Santa, Halloween parades, summer festivals and more.
As I sat in the dining area, listening to neighbors talk and eat together, I was sure the fish fry was another form of the fire department’s commitment to public service.
Confirmed: I feel more at home in a volunteer fire hall than in any sort of church basement.
Maybe it’s because when you’re in a fire hall, you don’t feel like you have to be on Your Best Behavior. The venues, to me, have long been associated with raucous, beer-soaked wedding receptions and trips picking up grandma from the always-smoky bingo night.
So when one of my friends asked me last week if my esteemed colleague, Candy, and I were going to dish on the fish at the fire hall in Mt. Pleasant Township, I immediately agreed.
I was running 15 minutes late (which, is sadly for me almost like being early) when I took my Yaris on two wheels into Candy’s driveway, where she was standing waiting for me.
When I pulled out of the driveway, I promptly began driving in the wrong direction. Hey, I never was all that good at directions.
And that’s right about the time she got all Mom on me.
“Uh, Amanda, where are you going? We need to turn around. (Subtle sigh) We’re going the SAME way we did last time. And the time after that.”
Then a few minutes later:
“Amanda, slooooow down. All I’m asking is that you TRY not to kill us.”
Then when we got to the fire hall, I grabbed a seat in the sparsely filled space (we came for an early supper) while Mom—er—Candy went to order our food. She came back a few minutes later with two small take-out containers.
She plopped them down, and that’s when my Reporter’s Instinct kicked in and I reached to open one of them to see what prize it held.
I could tell she wanted to slap my hand away when I made the gesture, but instead she pointed at me and said, a little sternly:
“Amanda, that’s dessert and I don’t want you touching it until after we eat."
After I nodded in agreement, she was off again to get our food, coming back with a tray full of the main players on the fish-fry menu.
While we sampled everything from the pierogies (they didn’t taste homemade, but they were prepared with love and plenty of butter and onions) to the much-talked about fish sandwich, the ladder was the star.
We chatted and laughed long after we had picked our way through dinner and then sampled dessert.
And when we left, it was a bit grudgingly (at least for me). We came for the fish, but as my Pap would have said, we also found a comfortable place to sit for a while.
On the drive home, Candy commented that I hadn’t made any major gaffs at dinner—which is admittedly a rare occurance.
Despite my comfort there, the fire hall ended up getting My Best Behavior after all.
For more information about the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department (address, phone number, that kind of thing) visit the website here.