Fish and chips, inspired by Saltwater
Where I’m from, fish and chips is a staple food. A good bag of chips from my local chippy, soaked in malt vinegar and rained down upon by too much salt was always a feel good luxury for me; a comforting warmth in my hands on a cold day, a signal to the nearing end of a long drive – the last stop before home. I felt independent when I was sent on my way with a five pound note in my pocket to make the journey to the chippy, to fetch a couple of bags of chips to bring home and share with my family. The walk from my house to the shops was only about ten minutes but it felt like the odyssey on my little legs – the warm, steaming bag of salty potatoes a vast treasure to bring home.
Finding out that fritters were hot, fresh, and ready to be packaged and sent home with me was a thrill as they seemingly only sold at the most random times. Finding a chippy that sold fritters all day long was deliciously scandalous.
The chippy was so important, so vital to me, that I dedicated a whole page in my (now lost) diary in 2007 to my first experience with a pizza crunch. So mesmerized was I by a cheesy, tomatoey pizza with a fluffy base, wearing a crispy, deep fried coat.
An announcement of a supper for tea with a can of coke elated me for the whole night.
It’s a comfort food. Despite the different facades, the different faces, different locations, different shapes, every chippy in Scotland shares a sincere sense familiarity. You’ll never have to scour a menu to figure out what you want; you know what you like before you’re even passed the doors. At worst, you might have to toss a coin to help you decide between a fish or a sausage supper.
For myself and a great many others, a chippy is a bonding experience; a treat; a familiarity. It’s something that nourishes the body and the soul, even if one serving is like, all of your calories for the day, and you can feel your face swell with new spots before you’re even finished eating it.
So, when I read Saltwater by Jessica Andrews, I related easier to the story of Lucy when she digested her thoughts and experiences with food like fish and chips. Her descriptions of salt on tongue and flavour in the throat drew me in as a reader, and enveloped me in smells, tastes, and story.
As tribute, I wanted to cook fish and chips for the first time in my own house. I know without years of experience, without family recipes, without an industrial sized deep fat fryer, I’d never match the flavours and textures I know and love from my local chippy Pacinis, but still, I was so enraptured by delicious words that I wanted to bring the plate home.
In the end, it turned out that my partner also really wanted to cook fish and chips himself.
Andrew’s story and its telling through food is deeply nourishing – I ask you, what is more nourishing than a hearty plate of comfort food prepared for you by one of your most treasured people?
Honestly, I didn’t do much in ways of helping but I was there for moral support. We had fun. I made the peas – though I couldn’t get them good and mushy like we wanted, they were still a welcome, green addition to a fried, beige plate (no complaints).
Saltwater was a gorgeous book, and it inspired a wholesome night and a brilliant meal for me. You can read my full review here.
For chips, we just sliced potato and fried. I boiled the peas from frozen, tried to mash in the ceramic pot with a wooden spoon, and added salt, pepper, parsley, and lemon juice until I was happy.
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