1) Honour the UK’s premier dish
2) Put it back in the number one position
3) Celebrate the best and most innovative chip shops in the country
4) Definitely not an excuse just to eat chips
5) It’s very serious
The potato was brought to the UK in the 17th century by Sir Walter Raleigh, fresh from his jaunts to the New World, which sounds like a Thomson cruise ship, but was actually probably Peru. Everyone ate the leaves and puked all over the place, but over time the potato gained in popularity. It’s apparently the French who came up with the idea of frying potatoes in oil, but fries aren’t real chips as we should probably get clear straight away.
The rise of the potato in British hearts closely mirrors that of the industrial revolution, the humble spud underpinning intense growth of manufacturing. No one went to work on an egg in those days, they had to fill their stomachs with potatoes.
There is some controversy as to the first chip shop in the UK – some say Lancashire has a firm claim, others that London was the place where it all began. At the very least (no fighting at the back there) we can all agree that several entrepreneurial spirits had got their fry on by the beginning of the 1860s.
Burgeoning globalisation meant that steam boats were catching fish and steam trains were distributing them all across the country, to the yards and mines where iron was forged and coal was mined to build bigger boats and faster trains. The circle of life in Victorian England.
The bag of chips might have been knocked off the top spot in the competition for most popular national dish in favour of more middle-class fare, eaten with plates and forks and suchlike (snobs), but the National Federation of Fish Fryers estimates 10,500 chip shops nationwide selling hundreds of millions of portions a year, although that’s massively down from the dizzying heights of more than 35,000 chip shops in the 1930s.
The industry remains lucrative, however, worth more than £1.2bn per year. Interestingly, according to the aforementioned fish fryers, the UK’s collective chip shops account for 10% of the UK’s potato crop.
I’m going to eat chips and write about them.