Where does the British symbolic dish ‘Fish and Chips’ come from?

4 mins read

Where do Fish and Chips, the symbol of England, which left the Beatles and Queen Elizabeth behind in the polls, come from? Let’s take a brief look at the history of Fish and Chips.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, one of the key figures of World War II, said “fish and chips are good friends”, which actually describes the British perspective on “Fish and Chips”. So where does this love come from?

Fish and chips had their own long history before they merged to become Fish and Chips.

It is believed that the potato was brought to England in the early 1600s by Sir Walter Raleigh. French fries, on the other hand, date back to the 1680s.

Fish fries are even older. In the 16th century, Jews fleeing Portugal and Spain brought fried fish culture with them to London and introduced fried fish culture to Britain. But in the early 19th century, when the Meuse River froze and fish became scarce, French fries replaced fried fish on family tables as an alternative frying method.

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Some of you may have heard the saying “the invention that saved Europe from famine was the potato”. Here again, the potato becomes a prominent factor and saves the British from starvation.

French fries became so popular that a French fries shop was even opened in Oldham in 1860. (Charles Dickens mentions a French fries shop in 1839 in his novel Oliver Twist, but we cannot say that it was an official shop).

Just then, the helping hand of the Industrial Revolution reached out to England and boats powered by steam engines started to bring fish from the North Sea to England, and the same fish was distributed throughout the country by trains powered by steam engines. For England, this meant that it was time to return to their ancient culture of frying fish. But wait a minute. They were also very used to French fries. What’s going to happen now?

So, a few innovative British individuals thought that French fries and fish and chips would go well together, so they opened stalls selling them together, and suddenly the Fish and Chips movement swept across England.

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So much so that in the 1910s, the number of Fish and Chips shops in England reached 25 thousand, while in 1927 this number increased to 35 thousand.

In a short time, Fish and Chips became the favorite food of industrial workers. Apart from the logic of healthy food and affordable prices, they were also eating a food that they liked very much. This is one of the factors that prevented the workers from revolting.

Fish and Chips became such a national culture that it was designated as one of the non-rationed meals during World War II. Government officials thought it would be useful to keep the people’s morale up by letting them eat their favorite food and did not impose restrictions on Fish and Chips. In the cold winter months, in the shadow of the Nazi bombardment, the momentary happiness of eating their warm Fish and Chips is indispensable for them.

Fish and Chips is such a phenomenon that both the rich and the poor of the British love this food and eat it regularly. Nowadays, Fish and Chips, which is most popularly eaten wrapped in newspaper, has become a symbol of England.

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Ali Esen

Istanbul University, Department of Mathematics. Interested in science and technology.

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