Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Fish It's Lent, When the Cod Hits the Fryer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Big Fish It's Lent, When the Cod Hits the Fryer

Article excerpt

A pink-haired punk kid rocks the fryer at Keith Heinritz Catering in Trafford, Pa. It's Lent, fried-fish season. The frozen cod stacks up like bricks.

Three hours away in Erie, dead fish pile the State Street dock after high tide. The good people of Trafford pile up at Keith's, spill onto Brinton Avenue, like salmon reeling upstream.

Keith works the register, oxygen tank on the counter, a canula strapped to his nose.

"Are you all right? Are you all right?" his wife asks, but Keith swats her away.

Keith doesn't look all right. Face flushed, sweating, he rings up extra buns, hot sauce, the last of the lobster bisque. The pink- haired kid breads the fish, flops it into flour, whips filets by their tails.

The good people of Trafford don't eat meat on Lenten Fridays. They give up hopeful things - chocolate, beer, the lottery.

Keith's place is cash only. The tip jar is an old coffee can covered in grease thick enough to write a name in. The grease has been building up for years. I don't know how long the pink-haired kid has been working today, but I think a long time.

I worked the fryer at The Trafford Polish Club when I was 12 and stayed until I went to Erie for college. I came home smelling like smoke and grease and fish.

"What is it with you people and this fish?" a friend from South Africa asks me.

This is his first time in Pittsburgh. He's puzzled by our signs. Big Fish, Giant Fish, Great Big Fish, Biggest Giant Fish Ever.

"What kind of fish do you people grow here?" he wants to know, as if there is magic in our rivers, which of course there is.

A little while back a giant rubber duck floated on these rivers. The duck was a visitor, too, created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

"The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers. It does not discriminate and does not have political connotations," Mr. Hofman said.

The duck had round-the-clock security, a press corps. It cost many thousands to make it, I'm guessing.

*

Keith Heinritz is rich, I think. His catering business has been going for years. His fish is the best in Trafford, which is saying something.

I don't know if it was his dream to run a catering business. …

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