There is a tradition that is not only specific to Australia, but to the season of summer. In a world of mega, franchised take-aways and hipster food vans, one retro delicacy stands the test of salty time. They are humble in both their ingredients and their packaging and recently, during a midweek meal by the bay,I was reminded of their simple brilliance. I write today to pay respect to the understated delicacy that is fish n chips.
Fish and Chips are traditional and extremely popular throughout the Commonwealth countries, especially along the coast. The great thing about the fish n chip tradition is also about how the meal itself is consumed. What makes them so quintessentially a summer meal is the cultural trait of eating them by the beach.
Families in Australia will often purchase their fish n chip, and then head to a local beach, beachside park or ocean lookout and feast away. No one is quite sure where this tradition originates from, but Anthropologists suggest it has something to do with a need to eat food closest to where it originally came from. This is quite a weird practice when you think about it...it’s not like people turn up to farms every time they have a steak. In Australia, the standard ‘fish’ served with your order is known as flake, a type of shark meat. This allows Australians the opportunity to get back at the sharks. An “eat them before they eat us” approach. It has never really been publically discussed, but perhaps if the Australian public stopped eating sharks, then the sharks would stop eating them.
The paper parcel in which the food is wrapped adds to the mystique of the meal. The brilliance of the paper wrap is that it doubles as a plate for serving. Hazards tend to exist when consuming fish and chips outdoors. In the wild, their natural predator is the seagull. Hordes of gulls will descend on your picnic spot as soon as they hear the rustle of paper being unwrapped. It’s for this reason I suggest you don’t hold Secret Santa gift-swaps down by the beach, lest ye be preyed upon by hungry gulls looking to eat the ceramic handcrafted, toilet roll holder Darlene in Logistics crafted you. To keep seagulls at bay, families will often allow their dogs and toddlers off the lead to go and chase them away.
If you have never experienced fish and chips, make it a priority this summer! F ‘n’ C shops tend to be more plentiful near the coastline, but still can be found inland. However, you might want to follow my grandfather’s wisdom who, paranoid about food poisoning, refused to eat fish unless he could see the ocean. Late in his life he developed cataracts and, as he was a devout Catholic, every Good Friday we would have to serve him dinner in an inflatable boat in the bay.
Hot, convenient, inexpensive, satisfying and just a bit wrong, nothing tastes more like summer than fish and chips! Except maybe sunscreen