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The History of Fish & Chips


It’s the Friday night favourite; the dish
you can eat without using a knife and fork and its Britain’s most loved and most
popular take away. It’s fish and chips. But did you know: It
was at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign fried fish began being sold as leftovers
to the working classes at London’s Billingsgate market.
Alexis Sawyer, the celebrity chef of the time used to eat it with his fingers
on the way home from work. When Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist said:
“Please sir, can I have some more?” – he could easily have been referring to
our favourite dish. Dickens mentions a fried fish warehouse in Oliver Twist. During this time fish would be served
with either bread or baked potatoes. It’s a north-south divide; debate and counterclaim
surrounds the answer to the question: “Who opened the first fish and chip shop?” Some say it was Jewish immigrant Joseph
Malin who opened one in Cleveland Street in East London. Others say it was entrepreneur John Lees
who sold fish and chips out of a wooden hut at Mossley Market in Lancashire. Fish and chips became popular as a
late-night post-pub feast for men, before becoming
the time-saving mid-day meal of factory and foundry workers, as well as a
pay-day treat for families at the end to the working week Four pence in today’s money is what it
would have cost you to sit down at the first fish and chip restaurant, owned by Sam
Isaacs in Whitechapel in London and be served
bread-and-butter and tea with your fish and chips. By 1910 there around 25,000 fish and chip
shops in Britain. Did fish and chips help to win the First World
War? It was seen as a hot, tasty
and morale-boosting meal. Prime Minister Lloyd George’s War Cabinet
recognised its importance, and because of this, safeguarded
supplies and kept prices low. In the inter-war years, two thirds of the
British wet fish caught were used to supply the growing
fish and chip industry. The number fish and chip shops reached its
peak at 35,000 Author George Orwell wrote in ‘The Road to
Wigan Pier’ that ‘fish and chips were first among home
comforts and kept the masses happy’. At this time there was a fish and chip
shop on the corner of most streets in the UK and the dish was becoming a firm favourite
for seaside day-trippers and holidaymakers. During the second world war, ministers made
sure that fish and chips were one of the few foods that
weren’t rationed. Meanwhile the deep-sea trawling industry
also played a key part during wartime, as experienced seamen were highly sought after
by the navy. Curry and spice and all things nice
– including fish and chips. During the revolution and social change in
the 1960s, take-away food blended, as Chinese and
Asian restaurants put their own version of fish and chips on the menu. Wrapped in the day’s newspaper; that’s how
people before the 80s enjoyed their takeaway fish and chips.
This ended when it was ruled unsafe for the food to come into contact with
newspaper ink. The first fish and chip awards, organised
to honour the tastiest and the best in the industry, took place in
London. Seven million portions of fish and chips are
consumed every week in the UK; 380 million portions
a year. There are 8 fish and chip shops to every McDonald’s
restaurant in the UK, and now the dish has gone global. It’s a favourite around the world and a must-have
on the bucket list for visitors to the UK. [Music plays]

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