Stephen Barrett's wine review

@BistrotWineMan, Stephen Barrett, looks at a brief history of Fish and Chips

Where do we start? It seems that Fish and Chips have been with us a very long time. History and ‘hearsay’ tells us fried fish was a staple in Portugal and Spain in the 16th Century. Their vast fishing fleets travelled far and wine to bring back Cod (amongst other fish) to be fried in oil as part of the general diet.  

Other European countries such as Holland and Norway were also experts in fishing and frying fish and as they travelled far and took this method of cooking with them. Eventually immigrants from these countries settled in the UK bringing ‘fried fish’ with them. But to us Fish aren’t anything without the ubiquitous Chip so where did the accompanying said Chips come from?

Charles Dickens wrote in ‘A tale of two cities’ in 1859, a reference to ‘husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil’.

Eventually with access to fresh fish and potatoes rail transport became more efficient, produce like this could easily be transported to major populated regions like London, Manchester, and Edinburgh, enabling Fish and Chip shops to emerge.

East coast ports like Grimsby and Hull were home to large fleets of trawlers hovering up shoals of Cod (and Haddock) for what had now become our national dish.

During the First World War the UK government ensured that socks of Fish were constant as a sort of ‘comfort food’ giving nutrition and well-being to many families. During the Second World War the UK government also kept Fish and Chips off the rationing system again enabling families to eat well in times of need.

Eventually with access to fresh fish and potatoes rail transport became more efficient, produce like this could easily be transported to major populated regions like London, Manchester, and Edinburgh, enabling Fish and Chip shops to emerge.

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In the UK we have seen a recent resurgence in the ‘Chippy’ not only as a simple, everyday meal of substance but ‘Fish Fryers’ are now using other fish to entice new customers to the joys of Fish and Chips. Cod and Haddock still remain the most popular fish but Chippys near to a Port might be using Plaice, John Dory and Pollack as an alternative.

Accompaniments are also regional with Mushy Peas a standard in London and the South, whist Curry Sauce might be found in northern cites. Salt and Vinegar are also a widely used condiment shaken and poured over to add that unique note of tangy acidity to the battered fish. 

Fish and Chip shops have also ‘up-marketed’ themselves as an alternative eatery of choice offering different species of fish presented with style in most convivial surroundings. Wine and Beer are also offered (and consumed at home) as the beverage of choice. Sparkling wines are a great match to the myriad of flavours offered by Fish and Chips so a cool bottle of Cava, English Sparkling Wine, Cremant or Champagne would be my choice. Still wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc (from NZ, Chile, Loire Valley or South Africa) would also be on my radar as well as excellent local English White wines now easily accessible and would coincide with the celebration of English Wine Week – June 19th to June 27th.  

Local Independent Breweries would also my source for lighter ‘Pale Ale or Zero Alcohol’ styles of beer as a great accompaniment to Fish and Chips. These are again easier to obtain from High Street outlets, Tap Rooms and Farm Shops and served cool in a large glass would do the job excellently. 

Stephen Barrett is a Wine, Food and Travel Writer based in Plymouth. Stephen welcomes correspondence via his website www.stephenbarrett.com Or via Twitter and Instagram @bistrowineman   Facebook and LinkedIn as Stephen Barrett

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