Saturday, July 21, 2007

Chips: 70p or 90p a portion. Cod: £1.20 or £1.90.

For nearly 150 years, it was Britain's cheap and simple national dish. But now fish and chip restaurants serve wine - and even sell batter scraps as a delicacy. Stuart Jeffries on how chilli flakes, nutmeg and minted peas transformed one of our favourite fast foods
There's a recently deceased fish and chip shop at the corner of Whateley Road and Landcroft Road in London SE22. The rubber plants in the window are brown, the post is dusty on the mat and just thinking about the congealed contents of the deep-fat fryer might well make your arteries fur up. So let's not.
The price list of this cheap and, perhaps, once cheerful neighbourhood chip shop is still visible in the gloom. Chips: 70p or 90p a portion. Cod: £1.20 or £1.90. The Golden City also offered the full range of bog-standard dishes - saveloys, battered roe, battered sausage - that would terrify fastidious foreigners. (As historian John K Walton points out in his unexpectedly interesting Fish and Chips and the British Working Class 1870-1940, even though there are strong arguments for the contribution of chip shops to our victory in the first world war, and our avoidance of a Bolshevik-style revolution can substantially be ascribed to the disaffected wartime poor being fed fish and chips, we could never manage to convince the rest of the world of the national dish's amazing virtues. With the possible exceptions of Australia and New Zealand.(article coninues on Guardian)

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