Known as the ultimate comfort food and part of our ‘National Fabric’; Paul McCartney enjoyed his with ketchup, while the King of Pop preferred his brown food drenched in mushy peas. No matter the condiments or side dish, fish and chips have long been the soul food of Britain’s culinary palette.
Historic Newspapers is heading to London today, Friday 3rd of June, to celebrate all things Fish ‘n’ Chips on the iconic dish's national nameday. The world's largest original newspaper archive website, will be promoting #Fryday-Friday with a variety of activity including: visits to magazine publication houses around London with Gordon Ramsey (or rather his lookalike); collaborating with popular Fish and Chips shop, Poppies, to offer customers Free Front Page Reprints; handing out an exclusive flyer which will allow customers to have their own reprint from the 'Day You Were Born' and finishing off by giving the public our own twist on the well-loved dish, just outside Liverpool Street Station.
The beauty of this wholesome dish dates back eons. History states Jesus fed the 5000 with expendable amounts of fish, whilst literary fiction utilises the endless uses of potatoes, as Samwise Gamgee exclaims, you can ‘Boil em, mash em, stick em in a stew!’ Nevertheless, the growing popularity of this gratifying food, is home-grown in England.
Is this the Plaice?
Claim to exactly where and when this dynamic duo birthed is as disputed as what came first out of the chicken or the egg. Londoners say South End’s Joseph Malin served up the dish first in 1860, whereas North England’s Lee Mossley’s supposedly founded the idea in 1863. Regardless, dating as far back as early the 17th century, this symbolic dish of Britain’s culture is one of the preliminary examples of culinary fusion.
Around the same time, Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal brought with them 'pescado frito', or as we know it, ‘fried fish’ coated in flour, whilst it's partner, deep fried slices of potatoes, are recorded in England in 1859 in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Combined, this gave birth to the nation’s favourite food (as well as curry).
What Morale is made of
With the rise of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of the railway network during the second half of the 19th century, fresh fish and fluffy golden chips could make their way down to working class families.
It was at this time, during a prolific period of rationing in the Second World War, fish and chips were exempt from portion control. Governmental forces apprehended this food as a staple cuisine fixed to our nation, whilst Winston Churchill recognised the dish’s vital role of boosting morale for hard-working families, and, ultimately, our country. He therefore deemed this delicious duo as, “good companions”.
This national dish is so much a part of our homeland as it is our history; even during the D-Day landings, British soldiers recognised one another by shouting the code word ‘fish. The correct response was ‘chips’, helping to identify an alley over the enemy. Thus, the patriotic claim that fish and chips, quite literally, helped the nation win the First World War.
What’s Popping at Poppies?
A much-loved tradition by Brits, fish and chips were served in yesterday’s news -- tossed with salt and doused in malt vinegar - creating the perfect union of deep-fried, golden goodness. Up until the 1980s, the mouth-watering aroma of vinegar-soaked newspapers and chips were blown away by health regulations, deeming it unhygienic. However, if you’re up for some old-school traditional fish and chips wrapped in imitation paper, then Poppies in Spitalfields, across from the famous Spitalfields Market, will fill you with nostaligia and the unforgetable dish it's assosciated with.
Home to one of the UK’s top fish and chip eateries, the Historic Newspapers Team dashed down to London town and, after a day of meetings and briefings, ventured to Poppies. Pat ‘Pops’ Newland' pictured above, has been producing authentic fish and chips since 1952. His 50s inspired eatery benefits from completely sustainable fish, caught and transported on the day by Pops’ long-time friend, Joe Bush. Dishing up chips as they should be served, the Poppies experience is a notorious adventure of East End charm and a golden hug for our stomachs.
The Day You Were Born
Even though there was a paper shortage in the 1940s, newspapers weren’t affected and remained in constant demand, meaning fish and chips were still wrapped like a bundle of joy for customers.
A practice and tradition of wrapping chips in this manner meant intrigue and entertainment all in one. It’s an experience we’ve brought to life at our event in London; handing out Free Front Page Reprints or £10 off newspapers from the day you were born, but with a twist. We gifted a variety of London offices with chocolate fish and chips, wrapped in a Front Page Reprint of the Queen’s coronation, printed from June 3rd, 1952, honouring her majesty and paying homage to this patriotic dish.
Thanks to the holy union of these two iconic foods, each mouthful is a marriage for our taste buds. Not just a food, it’s a Saturday night treat to feed the whole family; the substitute for meat on holy Fridays, or a moment spent by the sea-side, breathing in the salty sea air.