Fish and Chips
There is nothing more British than fish and chips. Whether enfolded in newspaper and eaten with oily fingers on a beach holiday, as a pay-day treat, a late-night supper or dished up on white dishware with silver crockery, fish and chips have come a long way since they started one and a half centuries ago.
These typical instantly cooked, piping hot fish and chips, smothered in salt and drenched with vinegar, still possess pride of place in British society. But who was first to have this brilliant scheme to wed fish with chips? This still remains a topic of debate, but records show that the history of fish and chips goes back to the 19th Century and may have originated in coastal areas.
In fact, fish and chips have been eaten separately for many years; while chips were introduced to Britain in the 18th century and the first citation of “thin cut potatoes cooked in oil” was made in a recipe book, Shilling Cookery in 1854 by a top chef of his era. On the other hand, the dish “Pescado frito” or deep-fried fish was initiated by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews between the 17th and 18th Centuries.
While the fried fish dish became popular in London and South East Britain in the middle of the 19th Century (as mention is made of a “fried fish warehouse” in the novel Oliver Twist byf Charles Dickens in 1830), trading in deep-fried “chipped” potatoes was growing in North of Britain.
When and where both trades combined to become fish and chip shops is still vague. But there are claims that the first “chippie” (fish and chip shop) from the North in Lancashire and from the South in London. Mr. Joseph Malin opened the first combined shop between1860 to 1865 in London, while Mr. Lees established the model in the North in Moseley, Greater Manchester in 1863.
In a short lapse of time, the trade developed so quickly that it reached an incredible 35,000 shops by the 1930’s and ranks around 11,000 now. Founded in 1913, the Federation of Fish Friers in Britain declared that in 1995 the British consumed 300 million servings of fish and chips, which is equal to six servings per inhabitant of Britain and over 4,000 portions of fish and chips are recorded for have been sold in one day by one shop.
During the First World War, masses of people were fed by fish and chips and it remained one of the few foods not subjected to rationing in World War II.
Cod is the most common fish used for fish and chips together with other white fish like pollack, haddock and skate. Traditionally the packing of fish and chips were with an inside white paper wrapping with an external insulating layer of newspaper or blank newsprint. But nowadays, on the basis of hygiene, newspaper has largely stopped and been replaced by food quality wrapping paper.
The concept of a “Fish Restaurant” serving fish and chips, bread and butter with tea for nine pence and affordable for the first time to the working classes was opened in 1896 in London by Mr. Samuel Isaacs and was so reputed that it guaranteed a rapid spreading out of the chain all over Britain.