Friday, April 29, 2022

fish n chips


                                                              Mushy peas not guacamole!

The big pond between the UK and the US keeps us apart in many ways – spelling, naughty words, gun culture, football, mayonnaise ( I had to have the joke in Airplane explained to me ),  curry sauce, pancakes, width of roads, drop scones (don’t go there!) and spam fritters. Amongst many others.

Such things are of huge importance.

So I was rather entertained by an article somewhere where American type people gave their views on something as British as the stiff upper lip and being rubbish at the Winter Olympics ( apart from Scottish people curling but that’s a meteorological issue)  and that is…..The Great British Fish and Chips.

Before we get to that, two things-

In Scotland, if you go to a chippy ( an outlet doing a takeaway of chips and an array of deep fried anything including bars of chocolate and pizza – yes we deep fry pizza - we are made of strong stuff and there's no food we won't destroy by sticking it in a fryer!) there’s no need to order X with chips. Just ask for a supper.

So a 'fish supper' is fish and chips, a 'haggis supper' is deep fried haggis and chips. It can be messy if the haggis isn’t quite dead but you need to take your chances in life.

I was interviewing Liam  McIllvanney, son of William, and we were talking about Greggs and how he exists without Greggs in New Zealand. He said that when he came home he was in Greggs with his four sons, every day for six months. They couldn't get enough of the steak bake.  And he was asking why they don't have a branch in Dunedin – Little Scotland in NZ. Then Liam became rather lyrical and winsome,  he said - quote ‘when I come back to Scotland it’s a case of lock up  yer haddock.’


                                                  Deep fried pizza from trip advisor

                                                       they  did not advise it

Which was the quote of the entire event.

Traditionally fish and chips was served in greaseproof paper, wrapped in old newspaper. If you were going a long way, or had no gloves, it would be double wrapped to stop you burning your fingers. The taste of the chips was enhanced by malt vinegar, salt and newsprint.

That’s the version from the chippy. The greatest fish and chip shop is in Pittenween on the east coast, it always has a huge queue. The fish there really jump out the sea and into the fryer.

When eaten while sitting inside the chip shop – chippy -  the dish becomes a  ‘Fish Tea’ which  is a bit Miss Marple.  A typical church outing for somebody my mother's age is a drive down the coast in  a comfy coach- lots of stops for toilets, then a fish tea at a hotel on the way back.  It becomes a ‘do’,  fish, chips and mushy peas, served with two slices of white bread and a cup of tea. Eaten with a knife and fork.

 The ones bought at the chippy are eaten with the fingers, and never with a daft wee plastic forky thing. There’s much licking of salt and vinegar from the finger tips. Minus the newsprint.

Scots kids, for some reason associate this with the smell of chlorine as  going ‘fur chips’ was typically done after going swimming after school and before Star Trek in the William Shatner days. Monday nights.


                                                           The Deep Fried Mars Bars

                                              From Wikipeadia- looks less that appetising

So what do these US types think of the bold fish supper?

Somebody from Pittsburgh thought it was amazing that the fish didn’t fit on the plate. He was a bit nervy of the tartar sauce but in the end he was glad he gave it a go. Do you not have tartar sauce over there? I could surprise  and delight you with some  at Bouchercon and that's surprise in an 'Yrsa and shark meat' kind of a way.

Mr Pittsburgh scoffed the lot. A man of taste. I was concerned that they didn’t have any men with taste from Pittsburgh ( insert smiley face here!) He was so enthralled with the chips he thought he had gone to heaven. But then, he was from Pittsburgh so it's all relative.

Another commented on how good the UK version was compared to the US version and then she ventured, bravely, near the subject of mushy peas.

This taste test was somewhat divisive for the American cousins. One  described mushy peas as  the British kids' nightmare. He's wrong there, that’s sprouts! Needless to say, he regretted his choice.

But another summed it up. He was very impressed, lots of salt and vinegar  on the mushy peas and said, 'it looks like baby food but it's really good!'


                                                         Waga whatsit and their vegan fish and chips

                                                           I  like the nod to the newspaper wrapping of olden times,



1 comment:

  1. Caro, I'm shocked and appalled at the Man From Pittsburgh's utter failure to grasp the crucial role the UK's culinary glories play in keeping its cardiologists' offices as jammed as their patients' arteries. Perhaps his ignorance of tartar sauce comes from being raised in the town world renown for its condimental challenge to vinegar on one's chips -- yes Ketchup/Catsup/Tomato Sauce. Local pride in another fact might also have played a part in his less than impressive display of knowledge -- no, not the role Edinburgh played in Pittsburg adding a final "h" to its name -- but in Pittsburgh ranking second in the nation for its number of pizza shops per capita. As to how many of those gastronomical treasures offer deep fried pizza, I'd venture to guess about as many as publicly list deep friend haggis on their menus.
    Many in the Greater Pittsburgh area do seem to have a commonality with (parts of) the UK: If it's edible, fry it. If not, fry it anyway.