15 Mar The Original Culinary Fusion: Fish and Chips
To us Yanks, “Fish and Chips” is one of the most recognizably British meals. In 1928, the New York Times had referred to the duo as “England’s hotdog” (a parallel accurate in popularity, but not in the sketchiness of how its made). However, did you know this iconically English meal is actually an early example of culinary fusion?
Why are they called “chips?”
Is there any difference between french fries and chips? Not really. The term “chip” comes from the cooking term “chipped” which simply means chopped up. British chips tend to be more of a thicker cut than their American counterparts. The American term “french fries” can be traced back to when Thomas Jefferson referred to the side as “potatoes served in the French manner.”
Fries, chips, or whatever you call them (delicious!) actually started in Belgium. Save that trivia fact for your next game night. Interestingly enough, they originate from the 17th Century when the Meuse river would freeze over. As villagers were not able to go fishing, they instead fried potatoes, like they would have fried their fish. And our beloved side was born!
FYI: As for what we call potato chips, the Brits just call them “crisps.”
Why Fried Fish?
Back in the sixteenth century, there was another refugee crisis going on in Europe. Most people, though nobody expects it, know about the Spanish Inquisition. What what’s not as well known is that it extended into Portugal in 1536.
This caused a lot of Marranos, to flee the country. Marranos were Portuguese Jews who converted to Christianity but still practiced their Judaism in secret. So they fried their fish on Friday to seem Christian, but keep it over to their Sabbath Saturday. Frying meant for easy leftovers – so both their religion and their tastebuds were happy.
Much like any migrants, the Marranos brought along their culture to their new homes in Britain. Their method of frying fish was welcomed by English palates and a new staple in national cuisine was born. Much like chips, fried fish became a favored dish of the working class.
Come Together. Hello Fusion.
Even though Charles Dickens mentioned a fried fish warehouse in Oliver Twist, and chipped potatoes in A Tale of Two Cities, the two didn’t join forces until the 1860’s. Who actually created the pair has been up to debate. [Spoiler: It wasn’t Charles Dickens.]
Some claim it was John Lees, who was believed to have been selling fish and chips in Lancashire as early as 1863. However, others say that was Joseph Malin, an Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant, who in 1860, started the first chippy (fish and chip shop) in East London.
No matter who brought them together, the meal’s popularity can’t be denied. By the early 20th Century, there were around 30,000 chippies in Britain. During World War II, they were excluded from rationing in fear that doing so would lower morale!
Be it cod, haddock, or served with a side of mushy peas, not much has changed about the duo. You just won’t find them wrapped in newspaper anymore (for health reasons, of course).
At The Queens Head, our brilliant fish and chips have won the Best of the Bay Award. Our version is made with haddock and comes with minted peas. Stop by on Thursday nights and try this historic dish when we have it on special for $10.95.
We’re located at 2501 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg Florida or call for a reservation at (727) 498-8584.