Fish & Chips – An English Tradition

Posted: 18 June 2014

Fish & Chips in Brighton

Every year, we send BABSSCo students on excursions to the seaside resort of Brighton. No visit to the seaside in Britain would be complete without sampling a portion of Fish & Chips.

Fish and chips are a national institution. Winston Churchill called them "the good companions". John Lennon smothered his in tomato ketchup. Michael Jackson liked them with mushy peas. They sustained morale through two world wars and helped fuel Britain's industrial prime.

For generations, fish and chips have fed millions of memories - eaten with greasy fingers on a seaside holiday, a pay-day treat at the end of the working week or a late-night supper on the way home from the pub. Few can resist the mouth-watering combination - moist white fish in crisp golden batter, served with a generous portion of hot, fluffy chips. Everyone has their own preferences and tastes vary from one part of the country to another. Cod or haddock? Salt and vinegar? Pickled onion? Scraps?

The roots of Fish & Chips are not as British as you might think. The story of the humble chip goes back to the 17th Century to either Belgium or France, depending who you believe. Oddly enough, the chip may have been invented as a substitute for fish, rather than an accompaniment. When the rivers froze over and nothing could be caught, resourceful housewives began cutting potatoes into fishy shapes and frying them as an alternative. Around the same time, fried fish was introduced into Britain by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain. The fish was usually sold by street sellers from large trays hung round their necks. Charles Dickens refers to an early fish shop or "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist (1839) where the fish generally came with bread or baked potatoes.

Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in the United Kingdom as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of railways which connected the ports to major industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century, which meant that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas. Deep-fried fish was first introduced into Britain during the 16th century by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain, and is derived from 'pescado frito'. In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin.

So, when our students reach the beach at Brighton, we hope they enjoy a national tradition currently enjoyed over 229 million times a year by Britons!

Sources: BBC News Magazine, Wikipedia

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