One of the must-do things for any visitor to Cornwall (and, indeed, Britain in general) is to eat fish ‘n’ chips. Until recently it was considered a national dish, and rightly so, for, done well, there is nothing that quite matches it. However, for the uninitiated, there are a few ‘rules’ to follow to ensure you get the best of the experience. So, in no particular order:
1. Eat them outside. Ideally, on a bench overlooking the sea or the harbour. Bonus points are awarded if you can watch the fishermen bringing in the ingredients or if a seagull pilfers one of your chips.
2. Salt and vinegar, and lots of them, are a must. Let’s face it, this is a meal your arteries are not going to thank you for, so there’s little point in worrying about your sodium levels. If your conscience really bites, you can always offset the damage with a nice brisk walk along the beach afterwards.
3. Plates and cutlery are an absolute no-no. Fish ‘n’ chips are at their very best when eaten out of a tightly wrapped newspaper parcel. Some places now offer a cardboard box which is less cumbersome but not quite as authentic, somehow. Obviously, you should eat the whole lot with your fingers and then surreptitiously wipe them on the back of your trousers (or a loved one’s jacket) but, if you feel you must show some decorum, then one of those little two pronged wooden forks is acceptable.
4. Always visit a ‘proper’ chip shop. These may also sell things like battered sausages and pasties, but they should NEVER offer other cuisines, like Chinese or Indian food. No, their focus should be solely on the crunchiest chips and the crispiest batter.
5. Check out the queue. If it’s stretching out the door and the fryers are constantly in action, then that’s a good sign. Sneak a peek at the contents of what other people have bought. The batter should be a deep, golden brown with a bubbled surface. The chips should be chunky and look like they’ve been cut by hand. If the batter looks anaemic or the chips look like French fries, then run a mile.
6. The absolute best fish ‘n’ chips will have been cooked in beef dripping. Again, your arteries may quiver at the thought but your taste buds will be in paroxysms of ecstasy, so it’s worth asking about this.
7. Never share. If you let one person beg a chip, pretty soon your entire stash will be gone. Chips are addictive and it’s a slippery slope from ‘being generous’ to ‘grieving over a vanished fish supper’. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…