As one of our most popular take away dishes, it should come as no surprise that 2008 figures revealed that 1 in every £100 spent on food, is spent in Fish and Chip Shops, which amounts to a massive 276 million fish and chip suppers sold each year!
Renowned author Charles Dickens, mentioned a ‘fried fish warehouse’ in his novel Oliver Twist, in the 1830’s, while in the 1850’s a reference to ‘husky chips of potatoes, fried in reluctant drops of oil’, was found in his novel, ‘A Tale Of Two Cities. Although invented in France, chips were a well-known staple in the North of England, while fried fish became popular in London’s East End.
Fish and Chips joined together to form a tasty meal in the 1860’s, although the origins of the first fish and chip shop in Britain is open to debate. Two often quoted claimants include Mr Lee’s who is thought to have opened a shop in Lancashire in 1863, while Joseph Malin is reputed to have opened a shop in London in 1860.
Facts surrounding fish and chip shops and the meals they served from then onwards, make for interesting reading. Fish and Chips wrapped in newspaper, or later greaseproof paper, became a popular part of the working class diet. In fact some chip shops are reported to have hired doormen to help control the queues. They also remained free from rationing during the second world war. Although some saw fish and chips as a pay day treat, it was also linked to religion. Because Roman Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on a Friday, Fish and Chips were served for their supper instead.
Cod and Haddock are the most common types of fish served up in a fish and chip shop, although many offer Rock, Plaice, Scampi, and Fish Cakes. The fish was commonly fried in beef dripping, and although that is still used in some parts of Yorkshire, most cooks use different types of oils. Fish and chip shops vary though, and you may find some offering the option of lightly battered or poached fish on their menus as a healthier option.
Although we often eat fish and chips at home, or at seafood restaurants that populate our high streets, it’s the fish and chip takeaway that will always be cemented in our food culture. Its even given rise to an annual ‘Fish and Chip Awards’, rewarding the best fish and chip shops in the country!