It was with a pang of envy that I read about Two Steps being one of the best chippies in the UK. I can fully attest to that: it used to be my local.
Walking past it on the way home from work was, at best, difficult, at worst, impossible. I’m talking about the effect on my waistline here, you understand.
I also felt a pang of hunger. What is it about fish and chips that is so good? Even the words make your mouth water and the smell emanating from the establishment cooking them is enough to break the strongest will (see above).
And what is it about the good old British chippy? Cook fish and chips at home and it’s just another meal. You only get the magic when they come wrapped in paper (oh, and why is it no longer proper newspaper?) from which you have to eat them, none of this plate nonsense.
(My husband will eat them from the paper but only with a plate underneath ‘so the grease doesn’t leak through’. That’s what I get for marrying a southerner.)
I associate fish and chips with decorating, gardening, any type of weekend work, when it becomes the standard lunch option.
‘We’ll just pop down to the chippy’ not only saves having to break from the task in hand to actually prepare something but also works as reward for effort.
It’s not the same here. The batter on the fish (which is always in small pieces) is lighter – it’s crisp, but pale and anaemic looking. I long for a big, dark-golden crunchy -coated chunk of cod. Then there are the chips, which are frozen. Frozen! What’s wrong with the good old potato? And don’t ask for vinegar – ‘you may as well stamp English on your forehead’ giggled a Kiwi friend. Fish and chips just doesn’t taste the same without vinegar.
The only thing missing from my home city’s perfect fish supper is the sea. I don’t know many mathematical formulae but I do know that sea + chips = gourmet.
In compensation there’s always the option of a decent pint to wash them down with. Or a cup of tea made with good Sheffield water.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go – I feel an (inferior) fish supper coming on. But at least it’s only a five-minute drive to the sea.
* Tracy Annenberg, ex-pat Sheffielder who lives in New Zealand