They also used to take me to institutions called: "Fish and Chip shops".
These places were all over, were of all imaginable shapes,sizes, snobbish, low-graded, luxurious, unusable and cockroach ridden, BUT they all had one thing in common, they were all temples of worship to that dish known simply as 'fish & chips', sold in a shop/restaurant/snack bar normally known as a 'chippie' (hence my mate in ( )'s interest).
Now everybody, but everybody had their own favourite, and I recall even before setting off in a charabanc (yes, they called the motorised vehicules that at the time) to go for a day out at the beach, all had been arranged, recalled in memory, and the decision taken to which 'chippie' we would all go that day. Normally it was the one favoured by the person paying (rarely my father or mother - god doesn't pay his servants too well) but for us kids it didn't matter.
The main thing was that it was out of the rain (invariably it rains at British coastal towns) that it was warm (normally it is freezing on the beach) and that the ketchup didn't have TOO much vinegar to water it down. We also like the fish in batter freshly done, but invariably it was old and had become soggy. It didn't really matter, for we covered the lot with firstly a snow like covering of salt, followed by a brownish liquid called malt vinegar (lemons and lemon juice were 'sissy' and not available because of rationing anyway) and often a topping off with red ketchup. Certain places even made 'salad cream' (a sort of vinegary mayonnaise) or chippies favourite 'HP' sauce available, but these were amongst the luxuriouse of places.
Eaten was done mainly by finger! Knives and Forks were supplied, but the adults allowed us to fumble around on our plates with fingers, unles we were accompanied by someone posh or important, in which case we would do our best to get the bits of fish into our mouths with sharp knives, and then the colour red tended not to be Ketchup.
Everybody had their own favourite way of eating this national dish, and the majority of 'common' people (like Chippie) would dig their fingers into the old newspaper pages containing the chips, fish and vinegar. This was tradition, and a really GOOD meal was only given when one could read the headlines on the chips before eating them.
Lead poisoning was not a high topic of the day, and with our school pencils, chippie bags, and other things, this was perhaps a good thing. Mind you, we are all (well, almost all) still alive!
Once the lot was finished, just before wiping hands on the rest of the newspaper, we had all a tendancy to find a last article to read, and this was generally soaked in spots of grease and vinegar. I have personally seen people (and responsible ones at that) actually eat the bit of newspaper containing the most grease and vinegar stained area, and finally looked happy and content. A last burp, and the meal was over. Chippie back to the pub (he hadn't yet met Tinkerbelle).
Now all this was so common, that you are wondering why I am writing about it.
WELL - I found out that it has all changed!!
Nowadays fish and chip's are eaten with Curry Sauce, with Sweet and sour sauce, with all sorts of things that have nothing to do with it, and have become THE most expensive item on the British diat plan, even if you can find a place that does good ones.
The most holy of things, the vinegar, is replaced often by lemons etc, and when it still exists, it is no longer worthy of the old insult "you are made of news(or brown)paper and chipshop vinegar" - which meant that you were so weak and acidy as to be unsupportable.
All this nowadays, served on china plates, or at absolute best in specially prepared carton/cardboard boxes or plates, which do not let the sauces and headlines soak and seep through. You can't wipe your fingers on 'em either, so 'napkins' are provided (normally taken by the dozen to serve as nose cleaners in the weeks to come). The boxes/plates can't be burned either, they just melt, so they finish their days at the bottom of the street (blown by the wind) together with the other tons of McDon boxes and the like, where they will apparantly take around a century to disintigrate naturally!
Never mind, we had the pleasure of REAL fish and chips, REAL ale (still tasted like the famous gnat's p**s) REAL horses which 'kakad' in the street, REAL steam engines which burnt your eyes out, and inevitably holes in your best (and only) suit.
But we lived!!
I have forgotton to mention the different types of things available at these establishments, from the Scottish 'fynon haddock' to the Londoners posher
'rock salmon' passing on the way through the Yorkshire 'fish scone' or the Lancashire 'black peas' offering.
These will all be future subjects, together with a few choice comments on Chippie (in)'s
cook friend - with cigarette permanently in between the lips, with the ash growing fascinatingly longer and longer- whose type is still seeable on the French coastal resorts, but the ash tastes better because it's in a nicer sauce.
Mustn't run out of material to bore you with.
Next week - Hungerford II.
can't find a potato! friends!