The History of Fish and Chips
Fish and chips first appeared in the UK around the 1860s, and by the 1930s there were more than 35,000 shops selling battered fish and fried chips all over the country.
The origins of this winning combination have not been confirmed. Fried fish most likely came from Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal, while fried chips originated in either France or Belgium around the 17th century. The first fish and chips shops were very basic, using cauldrons of hot oil over burning coals, where the battered fish and the chips were fried. By the early years of the 1900s they evolved into the standardised, familiar format we still enjoy today, with the fish and chips served in paper wrappings from a counter just in front of the fryers.
Fish and chips played an important role during the Second World War, keeping morale high on the home front. It was, in fact, one of the few foods that was never rationed, and there are reports of incredibly long queues every time shops had enough ingredients to sell the beloved combination. Even the Territorial Army prepared for battle on fish and chips, provided in special catering tents erected at training camps in the 1930’s.
Nutritionally, fish and chips provide us with protein, fibre, iron and roughly a third of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins for men and nearly half for women. It is one of those traditional dishes that has been labelled as unhealthy for years, even though it is very nutritious if eaten with moderation, as it is the case with many fried meals.
Cod is by far the most common fish to feature in the classic fish and chips, with Haddock following behind. Other white fish is occasionally used, like Pollock, Coley and Plaice. When it comes to condiments, salt and vinegar are historically the most common and traditional ones, but nowadays pubs and shops provide a wide variety of table sauces to go with it, including ketchup, mayo, brown sauce and even mustard!
Whether you prefer it wrapped in paper or in a plate, on the seaside or in a city pub, fish and chips will always have a special place in our hearts and in our country’s history.