The history of fish & chips

fish-and-chip-3039746_1920 edited.jpg

Did you know that one of the best days of the year is in June? That’s right, National Fish and Chip Day takes place on Friday 7th June, and it’s the day to celebrate Britain’s best double act (other than Ant and Dec of course) - the glorious fish and the humble chip.

In honour of this national day of import, we’ve decided to dedicate this month’s blog to the UK’s favourite seaside meal and dive into the history of when this perfect pair first came together.

The tradition of frying fish in batter reportedly came from Spain and Portugal after Jewish refugees came to Britain/ Charlies Dickens even referenced a ‘fried fish warehouse’ in his famous novel Oliver Twist in 1839. France and Belgian both take credit for the invention of chips, with one story stating that chips were actually intended as a substitute of fish. Wives would fry potatoes they had cut into fish shapes as they were unable to catch fish due to rivers being frozen during the winter.

Info box 1.jpg

The origin of the pairing of fish and chips however isn’t completely clear, with a north and south divide arguing over who first came up with the idea of eating them together.

A northern entrepreneur is often credited with the concept, as he would sell fish and chips out of a wooden hut at Mossley market in Lancashire from as early as 1863. Later the entrepreneur, John Lees, opened a permanent shop which had ‘the first fish and chip shop in the world’ written in the window. However, some say the first fish and chip shop was opened by Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant, in East London in around 1860.

The traditional fish and chip takeaway grew quickly in popularity afterwards due to its affordability and, of course, deliciousness. Fish and chips were a tasty break from the normal, unvaried working-class diet of the 19th century.

Later, the development of the steam trawler meant that fish could be caught from all over the North Atlantic and made distribution across the country much easier. In 1877, it’s reported that the first screw-propelled steam trawler was built by David Allen.

Info box 2.jpg

After seeing the success of the fish and chip takeaway, Samuel Isaacs decided to open a fish and chip restaurant for visitors to sit-in and enjoy their meal. He opened his first restaurant in 1896 and later expanded as popularity grew. By 1930, there were more than 35,000 chippies across the UK, which has now reduced to around 10,500 - although this still substantially outnumbers the amount of other fast food takeaways.

History has even proven that this duo is an essential part of British culture as fish and chips were attributed as a morale booster in the UK during both world wars. George Orwell listed fish and chips as the first of home comforts that helped keep the public happy in The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937. During the Second World War, fish and chips were also one of the very few foods that were never rationed.

Info box 3.jpg

Why Fridays?

Fridays are incredibly popular for eating fish, and it has always been the busiest day for fish and chip takeaways and restaurants. Many places offer a special deal on Fridays and stay open for longer. This tradition steams from the Roman Catholic belief that meat shouldn’t be eaten on a Friday making fish a popular supper choice - however, the tradition is now arguably more common as an end of the week treat.

The seaside is known as the nation’s favourite place to enjoy beer-battered cod and fluffy chips, with the sofa coming in second.

Fish and chips are considered a healthier option compared to other fast foods especially as fish offers many health benefits, which includes being high in protein and low in saturated fats - although the frying element of the dish makes it slightly less healthier.

Plymouth Fisheries supplies fresh, sustainable seafood to many of the fish and chip takeaways and restaurants in Sutton Harbour as well as across the city of Plymouth. Fish is also available for sale at our merchant units located on site.

Keep up to date with all the fishy news by following us on Twitter @ThinkFishPlym or on Facebook @PlymouthFisheries.