Ten things you never knew about Fish And Chips!
1. There is a blue plaque at Tommyfield Market in Oldham, Lancashire that marks the 1860’s origin of the fish and chip shop and thereby all subsequent fast food industries. By 1910, there were more than 25,000 fish and chip shops across the UK rising to more than 35,000 by the 1920’s.
2. Fried fish (no chips) was being sold as a street food in the 1840’s, and by the early 1850’s there were several ‘Fried Fish Shops’ in London. According to Cassels Dictionary of Cookery fried fish should be wiped very dry, and floured before being put into the pan of boiling fat. Next to oil clarified dripping is the best.
3. At around the same time, the owner of a shop in the town of Mossley in Lancashire that sold pigs= trotters and pea soup noticed a vendor at a nearby market selling ‘chipped potatoes in the French style’ subsequently added them to his repertoire, thus creating the very first Chip Shop.
4. Charles Dickens, that champion of the English downtrodden, gives the first reference to chips of potatoes in his novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and mentions a fried fish warehouse in ‘Oliver Twist’ Perhaps his widely‑read and much‑loved books had something to do with their subsequent, and widespread popularity.
5. In 1928 Harry Ramsden opened an unpretentious little shop near Bradford in Yorkshire that was to become the most famous fish and chip shop in the world. On a single day in 1952, his shop in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, served 10,000 portions of fish and chips, earning itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The business has 35 owned and franchised outlets throughout the UK and Ireland. Harry Ramsden’s claims to be ‘Britain’s longest established restaurant chain’
6. In the mid 1990’s The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, claims to have created the deep-fried Mars bar. As it says on the tin it is just an ordinary Mars bar fried in the type of batter more commonly used for deep-frying fish, sausages, and other battered products. The chocolate bar is typically chilled before battering to prevent it from melting into the frying oil. Some tongue in cheek reporting on the popularity of the dish in the mid-1990s, as a ‘commentary’ on Scotland’s unhealthy diet, saw the popularity of the dishes rise as inevitable!
7. The name ‘chip-shop’ was first coined the early fifties while the form was shortened to ‘Chippy’ (or ‘chippie’) in the early sixties. Occasionally the type of fish will be specified, as in ‘Cod’n’Chips’. The ‘fish and chip shop’ has become a staple throughout the western world whilst making inroads into middle and far-eastern markets.
8. During World War II, fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the combination of fish and chips as ‘the good companions’ British fish and chips were originally served in a wrapping of old newspapers but this practice has now largely ceased, with plain paper, cardboard, or plastic being used instead.
9. The concept of a fish restaurant, as opposed to take-away, was introduced by Samuel Isaacs (born 1856 in Whitechapel, London; died 1939 in Brighton, Sussex) who ran a thriving wholesale and retail fish business throughout London and the South of England in the latter part of the 19th century. Isaacs’ first restaurant opened in London in 1896 serving fish and chips, bread and butter, and tea for nine pence, and its popularity ensured a rapid expansion of the chain. The restaurants were carpeted, had table service, tablecloths, flowers, china and cutlery, and made the trappings of upmarket dining affordable to the working classes for the first time. They were located in London, Clacton, Brighton, Ramsgate, Margate and other seaside resorts in southern England
10. The true history of this classic combination seasoned with salt and vinegar will, like that of the hamburger in the USA, almost certainly never be proven to the satisfaction of every stakeholder. But be that as it may, this must not let this put us off considering the ‘facts’ as they appear! I have been reliably informed that John Lennon enjoyed his fish and chips, a staple of the working class, smothered in ketchup while in America people prefer tartare sauce! Well would you credit it!