When I had a shilling to spend for food, I chose between pasties or fish and chips. The shops were almost next to each other. One was a bakery that made the pasties, the other a fish and chip shop. They were both across the street from my Nelson Central School.
I love fish and chips more than almost anything. I love everything about them. The slivers of potatoes and the fish wrapped in a thick blanket of golden batter that just barely sweetens the fish and cooks it into a soft white flavor oblivion. This fish isn’t stinky sardine fishy, this fish tastes like you took a chunk of the ocean and made it into a solid white cloud, battered it and fried it. It’s not slimy, it’s not dry. It flakes apart in perfect little sections, that gives you a perfect little bite every time.
It was a little place. A big window in front lets you see the fryers, you could put your face right up to the glass and see those vats bubbling away, baskets either dropping, frying or draining. Each basket hooked to the back held one order. If I went inside, one of them would be mine.
I approached my fish and chip shop like I would a shrine. With respect and awe. My mouth was watering long before I got to the single step up into the shop. I was little, but they still saw me in the line that was more of a moving blob. We would order when we walked in the door.
Orders taken, orders barked out loud, chips, fish and sausages thrown into baskets and dropped into the frying oil.
Fish and chips
Sausage and chips ( I tried them once, but didn’t like them)
Chips and chips…
Some people ate there. There was a shelf and stools on the left at the back of the shop. I liked to take mine outside with me and eat while I’m walking.
Finally it was my order coming up. I waited at the counter, watching my basket rise out of the oil and hang on the metal wall, oil dripping. Then the sheets of wax paper went onto the pile of newspaper, seconds away…
Then the basket is dumped onto the wax paper and wrapped on the diagonal. Then wrapped again in the newspaper. I like newspaper much better than paper bags. I like the way it wraps around. I like the smell better, the paper bags smell like cardboard, the newspaper smells like steamy mossy trees, perfect for fish and chips.
I tear a hole in the top, through the damp newsprint and then the wax paper. I get that first soft chip, it’s soft and moist, barely crispy. After a few of those, I get to one of the fish pieces. The batter is thick and moist . It’s really thick, but I love it that way. The batter is almost raw next to the fish, barely cooked, it’s three parts, the outer batter, the inner batter then the fish. The inner batter is almost merged with the fish, so the bite is full of sensations that I just keep in my mouth as long as I can before I swallow and get the next bit. This time I’m not singing to myself walking. I’m just eating the best fish and chips in the entire world.
Please if you like my writing, visit chips and jam…wait that’s not right. Chicksandjam.com