A Tale of Two Chippies

There comes a time in every English seaside holiday when one is overcome with an insatiable desire for chips.

Not American crisps. Those fat, flabby, potato-finger cholesterol-fests which, in Britain, are served in paper, or if one is being really radical, a cone.

I think the English have a gene, seriously I do. When we wore woad, when there was no central heating, only rain and freezing fog and snow, I think we evolved to cope with it.

Back then, we needed layers of pale blubber to keep us from freezing to death in our little encampments with only a puny campfire between us and hypothermia.

So at some point in prehistory, I posit, they invented fried things. A fast-track blubber acquisition system.

It only took Sir Walter Raleigh to discover the potato for us to develop our ultimate insulation food.

The chippie- shorthand for the fish and chip shop – is a staple of every respectable Albian settlement. Typically, it has no chairs to speak of,but a long stainless steel counter concealing huge deep fat frying vats. At eye level, a glass display case for battered sausages and fish and other unfortunates.Above, a menu, with prices; usually in some deeply plebeian font and often red.

One goes in with an order and a tenner, and comes out with dinner in paper, helped occasionally by polystyrene cartons. And the smell that comes from those little paper packages? Suffice to say it is enough to drive any Englishman insane with desire.

And yet a chip is such an unassuming object; not crisp and together like American fries or Belgian frites, but pale and flabby and steaming and, I suppose, a little sweaty.

Holidays generally require one to sit on the harbour wall greedily gobbling chip-shop chips, smelling the pungent seaweedy brine and watching the seagulls duff each other up for bits of dead fish.

Norfolk. Now, North Norfolk I have found a little different.

After intensive research, Phil ascertained that two chippies could be found in the main town two miles down the road.

But we wanted a holiday chippie. A chippie next-the-sea.

We performed a very long getting-ready-for-chips walk, up over the cliffs, past an old radar station and back over a pudding-bowl hill.

Suitably exercised, we returned along the strange salt-flats coast. It is not a Brighton Rock, kiss-me-quick coast. It is wild and strange and beautiful, without a single fluorescent inflatable dingy in sight. Seagulls do not duff each other up there, because they do not duel for rubbish. They are the closest to polite seagulls I have seen.

I was not hopeful about finding a chippie here.

But Phil is an expert. Chips run in the blood. His great -great grandmother opened the first chippie in Manchester. He has an internal chippie-diviner, and was adamant that we would find a chippie.

We drove the coast road. And opposite a particularly stunning bit of wetland reserve, there it was. Open 12-2pm. A Norfolk chippie, albeit in a listed cobble dash cottage which charged a whopping Β£1.40 a bag.

When we got our paper packages home, the chips were a bit odd. They tasted perfect, but they were wan and thin, and the portions were small.

A Norfolk chippie, it was run by a Scot.

I’m saying nothing.

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47 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Chippies

  1. no wonder they were expensive. we once wandered round edinburgh farmersmarket and didn’t buy athing cos they were all too tightto giveaway free samples, and notknowing what anything tasted likemeant that wecouldn’t decide what to have to had nothing instead. Talk about living up to cultural sereotypes

    It’s getting almost impossible to find real english chips anymore though,most places sell french freis now becuase they fry in vegetable oil – its only a proper english chip if its fried in beef dripping. chips in oil stay pale instead of going lovely and brown, they get too crispy and worst of all you just don’t get the right flavour with oil.

    it’s getting to the point where only a few chippies use beef and the only place tog et real chips is expensive restaurants like the cleveland tontine (I had proper chips at meltons in york last week and damn they were good)

  2. Sorry about the disappointing lack of flab, you had me drooling there. Here we only get the real thing at dodgy corner cafes, they’re known as ‘slap tjips’ and I would kill for a newsprint-wrapped parcel of them right now!

  3. When I was growing up, in Montreal, back when the Catholic Church ruled daily life, no one was allowed meat on Fridays, but fish was fine. I’m sure this made sense to someone for some reason. anyway, because everyone had to eat fish, there were wonderful, what we call “fish and chip” places where the fish was fried in a wonderful batter and came out crisp and golden, the fries were done to perfection and placed in a thick paper bag while the fish was wrapped in newspaper. I can remember walking home, with our order, and holding one of those fries between my teeth till it cooled enough to bite into!

  4. We seldom eat fish & chips but sometimes they are just what you fancy. A bag of chips around here costs about the same but feeds four people – far too much for us.
    It sounds as if you have had a good holiday in ‘flintstone land’.

      1. Evanston is about 45 minutes from here, Kate, and a great little destination for shopping and eating, especially since I now know of the Celtic Knot. Thanks. Something to look forward to.

  5. Fish n Chips (always been a haddock man Kate, never cod) on a sea wall with loads of salt and vinegar and sunburned shoulders EVERYWHERE! – paradise? Weston Super Mare – but it’ll do.

  6. This made me hungry for Friday Fish Fry, which someone else mentioned above. It is a staple in Milwaukee, where MTM grew up.

    I think I ate my weight in chips when I was in England. I gained fifteen pounds while there.

  7. You show the shop, Kate, but I wanted to see a picture of the fare, even if it was disappointing. That shop is only open two hours a day or am I flaunting my inability to read and comprehend?

    1. It will probably open from about 5-10pm as well, possibly late to catch the pubs coming out. But this is East Anglia, and the nearest pub could be miles away. These places tend to be part-time, though. No-one likes chips for breakfast.

  8. I’ve never had English fish and chips but have always imagined I’d love them. I love fried fish and I’ve never met a potato I didn’t love. Needless to say, I’m addicted to our French fries.

  9. I had to laugh at the title…cause…a chippie, in my mind and the minds of fellow Idahoans, is a loose woman – a slang term and none to complimentary I might add, and yes, I’m ashamed to say – I’ve used it a time or two, but the chippie deserved it. Haha. πŸ™‚ Too funny What a giggle.

  10. A late friend of ours took us to Southend-on-Sea where he maintained the finest chips in the world were to be found. The portions were served and he tucked in with an expression of bliss. I found them soggy, floppy, and rather tasteless. Younger Daughter produces crisp-on-outside soft centre delights bursting with flavour. I think our friend would probably have turned his nose up at those. Conditioning and nostalgia?

  11. As luck would have it, my son insists on a ‘fish and chip’ night every Friday (we’re very close to Milwaukee, which Andra mentions above). We have to eat gluten free, to the fish is coated in coconut, not batter, but we do buy ‘steak fries.’ They are, if cooked right, as close an approximation as I have found to the chips I loved in Ireland! Thanks for the memories, Kate.

  12. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had REAL English fish and chips. But, on the subject of crisp, brown-tinged chips vs. pale comparisons, I prefer the crisper ones and lean (no pun intended) on certain brands for that look and taste. Fried in beef dripping? I’ll have to check that out.

  13. Oh yes. Small, mean and floppy. Were they smothered in that brown gravy-like liquid that tastes like weak brown sauce? I’m shuddering just thinking about them.

    Now our local chippie…….

    Let’s just say that it isn’t run by a Scotsman πŸ˜‰

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