United Kingdom

18 (sadly :( I don't want to leeeaavve noooo)
pronouns unspecified
that's for you to decide I guess
physics student with a
tiny dream of being a writer too so
enjoy my words or something :)

Message to Readers

Been a while since I entered a competition but this one kind of spoke to me so I scribbled out a piece. Any advice is much appreciated! I was not sure whether there were too many aspects aside from the food and whether that might be a bit distracting. Also I struggled to come up with a good ending so advice with that would be great :)

The Nation's Favourite

June 7, 2020

I remember being told that there's a question on the UK citizenship test which asks whether the nation's favourite takeaway is a curry or a fish supper. Now, I don't have the foggiest whether that's true or not, nor do I remember which the answer turns out to be, but I know without a second's thought what the answer should be. It comes wrapped in an off-white not-quite-grease-proof paper package and it is the food of the Gods. British cuisine is not exactly known for... Well, anything really, but I reckon our humble fish 'n chips is an exception, and soon you will understand why.

The excitement of a fish supper begins as you approach the chippy: the sticky, salty smells reach out for you like tendrils, beckoning you inside and making your mouth water before you've even laid eyes on a single chip. "All 'av two haddock and chips, please," is all you need to say, besides a quick "aye, that'd be great, thanks," in reference to the mushy peas (which you mustn't forget to pick up as you leave). On a Friday evening queues around the country spill out of chip shops into the streets in long lines of of rumbling stomachs and eyes already devouring rows of battered fish behind perspex counters.

When I was little I'd go with my dad to the chippy on our mainstreet. I distinctly remember feeling the silver rim of the counter with my chubby, sticky fingers and finding that it was warm, but never too hot to touch. Sometimes he would lift me up to see the fish and battered sausages and the workers behind them wearing white aprons and blue hairnets, their hands quick and nimble as they folded squares of paper around portion after portion of gold, mushy heaven. Then those blue-gloved hands would pass over the goods and we'd clutch the packets to ourselves as we scurried home, basking in their radiated warmth to let it chase off the sharp evening chill.

After the chippy comes the best part. First the mushy peas and salt and ketchup are added, and beers cracked open for the adults. Then a silence descends as everybody tucks in, broken only by the crunch of layers of batter. The fish hidden inside is the real prize; always the perfect mix of fleshy and chewy with a healthy dose of salt, though you have to be careful of the bones. The chips are real chips, not the weedy wee things you get in fast food chains but fat, greasy, misshapen lumps. Inside your mouth their thin, crispy crust offers a little resistance before the mushy potato inside oozes out in a delightful explosion.

But beware, for the chips are best served as warm as possible, which means you have to eat them quickly. This is not food to be eaten with etiquette, but rather to be feasted on with vigour. You should wolf it down, as my mum would say, shovelling it into your mouth as though you haven't eaten in a month. And, no matter what cutlery you lay out to begin with, you will inevitably end up tearing it up and picking at it with your fingers instead, licking the salt off them with satisfaction after all of your chips have disappeared. It makes for less washing up that way anyway.

What cutlery one intends to use depends on the circumstances in which one is eating it. My family used to have it served on big white plates at my grandparent's house, with a proper silver knife and fork and salt and pepper on the table in matching shakers, although the pepper was never used. Sometimes the adults even had wine glasses filled with white-wine, which apparently goes well with fish although I always thought it tasted like nail-varnish.

Sometimes, if we're travelling, we eat with a small wooden two-pronged fork. This is saved for times when we're in a parked car in Oban or in Berwick, or in a hostel room at midnight after a whole day of driving, or anywhere else where stickyness is inconvienient enough to make us put up with the sour taste of wood mixed in with the fish. If there's one thing I've learned, its that there are not enough paper napkins in the world to wipe chip grease off your hands after a fish supper.

Other times we have no cutlery at all. This might be because there were only plastic forks in the shop and we're too environmentally conscious to use such a thing (although we have to try not to think about the consequences of stealing yet more cod from an ever-dwindling eco-system), though most often we don't bother purely because we don't care. These times are best, usually accompanied by wet hair and sun-creamed skin after a whole day of being out in the wilderness; the sun resting low in the sky over a great unbounded shimmering blue. On these days we are ravenous and we devour our meal gladly on a picnic bench on on the grass, perhaps with the Cuillins of Skye at our backs, or, as on one unforgettable evening on Tiree, graced with the presence of basking sharks. Everything tastes better with a view of basking sharks.

And now, after nearly two decades of fish suppers I am still in love. In all of these places; at home or in the wilds of Scotland or in a car park on a motorway somewhere; a fish supper is a source of comfort and satisfaction which never fails to delight. So I encourage you, dear reader, to find yourself a bench with a good view and some good company and indulge in the luxury of a good old-fashioned fish and chips.

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  • thisiswhoiam

    @Ellen J *Scottish haha ;) but thank you!

    6 months ago
  • delete

    Yesss! A feel British person on here writing about English cuisine! I always remember going to the chippy on a Friday when I was younger. Good job in the comp!

    6 months ago
  • sunny.v

    wow. this is simply amazing. i’ve never been to the UK, so i’ll confess that I’ve never had a fish supper. but the way you describe it is just sooo wonderfully descriptive. you really embodied how cozy and familiar eating such a dish is to you, and the description of the meal itself is just so vivid. i could literally taste it. you did an amazing job with this essay, you had a great intro, and you had an awesome flow that kept me hooked all throughout. this really goes behind simply a food essay. it shows me your home. amazing, amazing work!

    6 months ago
  • Gemma Bradbury

    this is so good I love how vivid your descriptions are, also I love how relatable it is haha

    6 months ago