Saturday, 23 February 2013

Fish and chips on a Friday

Fish and chips on a Friday. Feeling grown up as you leave the house, clasping the money and trying to remember what everyone wants. Climbing over the brick wall to cut across the green, staying away from the busy main road. Following the scuffed-grass path, but slowing down to peer through the iron railings into the small back gardens of the ground-floor flats. Waiting for a moment by the pink plastic windmill, watching it spin wildly in the slightest breeze, then carrying on along the pavement, with its faded markings from the last game of hopscotch. Up the hill to Rosendale Road, past the huge metal gate that was always shut, knowing it was there to keep the cars out but let the fire engines in. Waiting to cross the busy road, peering out between the parked cars and then dashing across to the chip shop. Staring through the glass front of the counter, past the pieces of fish lined up in a row and down into the bubbling churning cooking oil, where the dancing chips were trapped in a deep wire basket. 

Fish and chips on a Friday. Always eaten straight from the paper, but with the paper set down on a plate, so you could balance it on your lap as you watched the tv in the corner. Too many chips, always too many chips, soaked in vinegar and too much salt. Small fingers picking between the sharp thin edges to grasp the softer thicker ones. Breaking off the tail of the cod first, with all its crunchy batter, then biting into the thicker part, realising too late it was still piping hot. Sucking in cold air, trying to cool the fish down. Holding your hand over your open mouth so nobody else could see as you moved it from side to side, hoping it wouldn't burn.

Fish and chips on a Friday. Forty years later and a different part of town. A five minute trip in the car, to bring back the Styrofoam packages and tip them out on a plate. We sit at the big wooden table, the tv screen high on the wall. I still eat the crunchy tail end of the cod first, but the brightly-coloured plate next to mine has a sausage neatly sliced and there's no salt or vinegar on the chips. Too many chips, always too many chips. Small fingers pick between the sharp thin edges to grasp at the softer thicker ones. Eddie looks up at me as we both blow gently to cool them down, “I like chips Nana.” 

13 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Why is it fish and chips are always connected to special memories?

theplantgardener said...

fish and chips.. lovely word pictures...
our canadian version is not so memorable but tasty nonetheless :)

Mrs Smith said...

Love it.

We used to buy $2 worth of chips from our local chippy, Basil's, in the 70s, and it would be enough for my family of nine.

In Australia , it was always flake.

Fish'n'chip shops here have been fancied up out of all recognition; it's all salt'n'pepper squid and blue-eye trevalla with s pear and rocket salad and costs a small fortune.


Still, there are always too many chips.

Debbie said...

Mmm! I can smell the goodness roll off the text. Want some now.

Joe Pereira said...

I want some chips now, many chips, dripping in vinegar and sprinkled with more salt than my blood pressure needs...yumm :)

The Elephant's Child said...

Fish and chips was a very rare treat when we were growing up, but oh the memories. Thank you for the reminder.

Sharon Longworth said...

mybabyJohn/Delores - I'm not sure what it is, but perhaps there is something about the taste, the warmth and the comfort of a ritual - all combining to prompt our memories?

theplantgardener - thank you. Now I want to know about the Canadian version!

Mrs Smith - I like the sound of Basil's. I think I'm also pretty glad that the fish and chips we can get today is almost exactly the same as it was forty years ago.

Sharon Longworth said...

Debbie - it's breakfast time as I sit here and type this, and do you know, if someone offered me a chip right now, I'd be quite happy!

Joe - me too!

The Elephant's child - I guess I was lucky that it was a regular treat for us then. It's a very rare one nowadays.

Gorilla Bananas said...

One day, the problem of eating your fish and chips when they're too hot will be solved. There'll be a spike you can poke your food with that will squeak at a different pitch when the food reaches the perfect temperature. One day.

Chef Files said...

How refreshing to return here and find that your natural ability with words is unchanged. Too many budding writers fill pages and say very little worth reading. You dear lady, you say just enough and never too much.

Pat said...

Lovely evocative post, but in my day there were never too many chips.
My Gran gave me a chip pan and then we got educated and I threw it out. When I joined MTL I threw his chip pan out too.
I'm beginning to feel slightly guilty.

theplantgardener said...

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/cooking_school/where_to_find_the_best_fish_and_chips_in_canada.php

Young at Heart said...

am feeling quite hungry now....delicious post!!