Peter York On Ads: Fish fingers and Suggs come together to unite the country - Media - News - The Independent

Peter York On Ads: Fish fingers and Suggs come together to unite the country

As a child, my idea of heaven was Arctic Roll, a form of Swiss roll with ice cream inside. I also loved Birds Eye cream sponge cake – which seemed miles more special than the terrestrial kind. They were both frozen, and frozen was modern. And all the frozen imagery was exciting and somehow spacey.

In my first Bayswater rented room, frozen food was difficult to manage logistically in the square-inch ice-slot of a tiny fridge – but so worth it. And when I moved to a shared flat with a proper kitchen, I simply lived on the stuff. Rock-hard briquettes of frozen fish in sauce boiled in a pan with some bright green veg was my staple.

Shops were full of it. Great supermarket aisles were devoted to huge open freezers. Every imaginable kind of food endeavour could be rendered. There were basics – lumps of meat, cardboard plates of raspberries and so on – and the things rural types bought to put in their huge chest freezers in the outhouse. But the real glory was the stuff that only took frozen form: inventions that defined the Western world. They ranged from those lovely TV dinners with sliced grey beef, individual Yorkshire puddings, veg and gravy in an attractive segmented foil tray, through to fantastic puddings in the Black Forest gateau line of descent. If you'd got enough freezer space for it, you could eat children's party food all week.

It was such a glorious vision of demotic plenty that it was no wonder Mum had always gone to Iceland. It didn't matter that middle-class foodies were increasingly snobby about it all. The defining frozen food line, the crossover product that became the national shared experience, a childhood staple from north London to Northern sink estates, was the fish finger. These precisely cut portion-controlled goujons of cod (God knows what white fish they're assembled from now), were clearly good for children, and in most cases the only fish they'd eat in a year.

Frozen food has retreated now. It's pretty residual in most middle-class supermarkets – something to pad out the ice cream space. There are always fish fingers and emerald peas, but anything else has to fight for space. Instead there's cook-chilled food, the great Eighties upgrading, and the chill cabinets have taken over, with their pastas and en croutes, their Healthy Choices and famous foreign recipes tolerably enough executed. Frozen food is kitsch and underclass.

Part of the national memory bank, too, is Madness – particularly Suggs. Less worrying than their Midland Two-Tone contemporaries, more obviously child-friendly, with their funny family songs and funny boysie dance routines. They're huge again now, buoyed up by old fans in their thirties and forties and their children. Suggs is so universal, a National Treasure in the making – a pleasant-looking dad with a bit of go in him – that he's an obvious choice to front the new Birds Eye commercial.

And of course they play 'Our House' like mad. And the house in question, where a queue of parents and children enter from one door in one little house in a terrace of little houses, opens up inside to the width of the whole street. This huge act of gentrification has been lifted from The Beatles' 'Hard Day's Night', of course. This is Birds Eye – now private-equity owned like practically everything else – remaking the brand for the nostalgic modern world. And the defining moment in this attractive bit of Camden crossover comes with that symbolic icon of the hearty peasant food revival, the doorstep fish finger sarnie.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Director of Programming and Industry Engagement

£40k - £50k depending on experience: Sheffield Doc/Fest: Sheffield Doc/Fest is...

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week