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  • Eighty per cent of the British population

  • say they visit a fish and chip shop at least once a year,

  • and we consume 382 million meals from the chippie per annum.

  • That's pretty impressive

  • for a combination that's only been with us for around 150 years

  • for the first fish and chip shop only appeared in around 1860.

  • Separately, both fried fish, and chips, were enjoyed by the British

  • well before they came together.

  • Chips as a term for something edible was in use in the 18th Century,

  • often in relation, rather curiously, to oranges -

  • orange chips were candied chunks of peel.

  • It was in the same century

  • that the potato was going from knobbly curiosity to staple food,

  • especially for the poor,

  • and given how well potatoes lend themselves to deep frying,

  • it was inescapable that potato chips would soon be on the scene.

  • By the Victorian era, chipped potatoes were everywhere,

  • from the delicate little 'straw potatoes' -

  • which resembled, well, straw - eaten by the rich,

  • to the French street food, which Dickens described as

  • husky chips of potatoes fried with some reluctant drops of oil”.

  • The British preferred baked potatoes, but they ate them fried too.

  • Fried fish, meanwhile, was also on the tables of the rich and the poor.

  • Bread-crumbed filets,

  • delicately fried in butter and garnished with fried parsley,

  • were a staple for upmarket meals.

  • Whitebait, fried in lard, were considered a delicious delicacy.

  • But there was another place fried fish could be bought,

  • and that was the street -

  • in the Jewish quarters of London and other big cities.

  • There, Sephardic Jews sold cold fried fish

  • intended for eating on the Sabbath

  • when no cooking was allowed in Jewish homes.

  • It quickly took off, being cheap, filling and tasty,

  • and fried fish shops and market stalls - hot and cold -

  • sprung up in cities across the UK.

  • It was inevitable that these two street foods,

  • so popular with the masses, would end up being sold in combination.

  • It proved a winning formula and fish and chip shops took off immediately.

  • Trawl fishing and the railway boom of the 1870s

  • helped fish to reach inland areas quicker than ever before,

  • and potatoes were already grown everywhere.

  • By 1910 there were 25,000 fish and chip shops in the UK,

  • and by 1929 there were 10,000 more.

  • Such was the hold of fish and chips - and its genuine goodness,

  • especially for its mainly working-class consumers -

  • that during the Second World War,

  • fish and chips remained off the ration,

  • though the type of fish available

  • was not always the most delicious or desirable of species.

  • Across the UK, accompaniments vary - from the mushy peas of the north,

  • to curry sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise or the chip shop spice

  • which is on every counter in Hull.

  • Salt and vinegar remain the staples.

  • In the 21st Century chippie,

  • vegetable fats have often replaced beef dripping or lard for frying.

  • Newspaper used to be the wrapping of choice - outlawed,

  • unless fresh from the printers and unsullied by readers' hands, in 1968.

  • Now it's mainly plain paper and polystyrene,

  • but the skillful wrapping and excitement of unwrapping remains.

  • There are, however, fish and chips

  • and fish and chips.

  • Witness the disappointment on the faces of tourists,

  • lured by the promise of a great British delicacy,

  • only to find they've happened upon the bad version,

  • all grease and soggy batter.

  • But then when it's good

  • well, it's crispy and fluffy, with a hit of vinegar, and a punch of salt.

  • It's unbeatable.

Eighty per cent of the British population

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B1 fish fried chip british lard delicacy

Good cod! A bitesize history of fish and chips | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/04
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