Fish and chips: how did the tradition arise?

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Surely, we all love to snack outside on a sunny day fish and chips, flavored with salt and vinegar. Why not with added mushy peas? This food is considered traditional for local cuisine, but when it appeared and how, you will find out now!

Two cities – Lancashire and London claim the championship in the “discovery” of the fish and chips temptation. Potatoes were a cheap staple food in the poorer areas of the industrial North, while fried fish was a privilege of London’s poor East End. Charles Dickens is the writer who first, in 1839, mentions the fried fish shops in his book “Oliver Twist”. Obviously, over time, people have found that fish goes great with chips. The first fish and chips stall was opened in Mossely, near Oldham, Lancashire around 1863. The clientele apparently liked the innovation, because the temporary stall turned into a shop, which settled permanently by the road and its owner Mr. Lees proudly put up a sign “This is the first fish and chips shop in the world!”. However, it is said that as early as 1860, the London Jew Joseph Malin opened such a shop on Cleveland Way.

In general, the sale of fish and chips was a family business and often took place directly through the window of the front room of the house. But with the advent of the 20th century and industrialization, the sale of ready-made, tasty food grew incredibly. It is even said that the industrial revolution was partly fueled by fish and chips.

The fish itself comes from the North Atlantic, Iceland, and Greenland and quickly spreads throughout the country, thanks to rail transport. It is prepared according to a Spanish recipe, rolled in flour and fried in oil. This method of preparation was brought to Britain by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The trade in fried fish became so widespread that in 1931, a shop owner in Bradford had to hire a doorman to deal with the disorganized crowd lining up in front. During World War II, fish and chips were one of the few foods that were not bought with coupons.

In 2021, statistics recorded the sale of a total of 167 million portions of fish and chips for the year, making it the most preferred home food in the Islands. As of the same date, there are 10,500 stores in the United Kingdom offering the traditional dish. Impressive, isn’t it?


Author: Iveta Radeva

Training Centre Raya London is a new and fastly developing English Language School specialized in teaching English as a second language. Founded in 2015 we are small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have very good facilities and resources for the students to learn English in UK.