Happy birthday, fish & chips! Celebrating 150 years of a great Great British institution

The perennial favourite takeaway dish has survived many fads, famine and wars to keep its place firmly in the nation's heart

James Thompson
Sunday 10 January 2010 01:00 GMT

1 The UK has an estimated 10,500 fish and chip shops.

2 On any Friday, one in five takeaways are from the chippy.

3 They have a third fewer calories than other popular takeaways.

4 A portion contains 30 per cent of a female's recommended daily calorie intake and 23 per cent for a man.

5 Lancastrians claim the first chip shop – John Lees in Mossley, near Oldham in 1863.

6 Cockneys beg to differ, pointing to Joseph Malin's shop set up in Cleveland Street in London's East End in 1860.

7 In 1838 Charles Dickens wrote about fried fish warehouses in Oliver Twist. The warehouses were forerunners to the fish and chip shop.

8 In Dickensian Britain, fish weren't served with chips but bread or baked potatoes.

9 They were sold cold by street vendors at a penny a portion from trays hung around the vendors' necks.

10 The first Jewish cookbook, published in the UK in 1846, included a recipe for fried fish.

11 Portions were originally fried in beef dripping; in parts of Yorkshire, this is still preferred.

12 A variety of oils is now used to cook them.

13 Carbon dioxide in beer batter results in a lighter texture as well as an orange colour.

14 The UK fish and chip market is now worth £1.2bn.

15 An estimated 229 million portions of fried fish are sold every year.

16 More than 277 million portions of chips are also sold annually.

17 More than half the UK adult population visits a fish and chip shop at least once a month.

18 In the early 20th century, a portion of fish and chips with mushy peas at 6d added vital protein and vitamins to the usual diet of bread, dripping, tea and condensed milk.

19 So essential did the dish become to ordinary men and women that one shop in Bradford had to employ a doorman to control the queue at busy times during 1931.

20 The Territorial Army prepared for battle on fish and chips provided in special catering tents erected at training camps in the 1930s.

21 Its importance meant it was the only takeaway food not rationed during the Second World War.

22 Frederick Lord Woolton, wartime food minister, allowed mobile frying vans to cater for evacuees.

23 The potato is thought to have been brought to England from the New World in the 17th century by Sir Walter Raleigh.

24 A floury potato is best for chips; waxy potatoes can often result in greasy chips.

25 The British Nutrition Foundation says an average portion of fish and chips contains 20.6g of fat.

26 A fish supper has approximately three times less fat than chicken tikka masala and rice.

27 It compares in a similar way to sweet and sour pork with egg-fried rice, which weighs in with 38.6g fat.

28 An average serving of chips contains more than double the fibre found in an average serving of brown rice or bowl of porridge.

29 A portion of chips contains less fat that a prawn mayonnaise sandwich.

30 You can get a third of your daily vitamin C from a portion of chips.

31 Thick chips absorb less oil than thin ones, so chunky chips are healthier.

32 Last year, 50 scientists from 16 different institutions mapped the potato's genetic code.

33 The UK's favourite fish choice is cod, which accounts for six out of 10 portions sold.

34 Haddock comes in second, at 25 per cent.

35 The remaining 13.5 per cent includes hake, halibut, plaice, pollock and sole.

36 Cod landed in the UK is now strictly regulated to prevent over-fishing and extinction.

37 One in six UK adults enjoys fish and chips once or twice a week.

38 The best potato variety for chips is maris piper.

39 Maris piper potatoes take 150 days to mature from plantation.

40 Britain now grows more maris pipers, dubbed the "chippies' choice", than any other variety.

41 Fish and chips have 595 calories in the average portion – an average pizza has 871; Big Mac meal with fries has 888.

42 National Chip Week, organised by the British Potato Council, takes place next month.

43 £1 out of every hundred spent on food is spent on fish and chips.

44 The industry employs some 61,000 people.

45 One out of every four British potatoes – 1.25 million tons every year – ends life as a chip.

46 Fish and chips outsell Indian takeaways by four to one.

47 In the UK, waste frying fat is a vital source of bio diesel.

48 Fish on Fridays stems from the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays – especially during Lent.

49 Cod has existed as a species for at least 120 million years.

50 Most cod is caught off Scotland but eaten in England. Scots prefer haddock.

51 A cod surviving to a year old has virtually no predators thereafter other than man.

52 There are more than 200 species of cod.

53 The Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) can grow to 1.8m (6ft) and weigh 91kg.

54 Unless eaten, a cod may live to be 30 years old.

55 Cod and chips may be our national dish, but most is caught in waters off Iceland, northern Norway and Russia. Only about 30 per cent is from the North Sea.

56 Cod is white and tasty because of its infamous sloth. It swims as little as possible.

57 It produces its own antifreeze, allowing it to survive in icy waters.

58 Cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D and contains special fatty acids said to ease arthritic joints.

59 The Chinese serve fish and chips with sugar.

60 A survey showed that most women believe fish the likeliest dish to put them in the mood for seduction.

61 Food writer Claudia Roden credits Portuguese Marranos – persecuted Jewish refugees – for introducing fried fish to the UK in the 16th century.

62 Former US president Thomas Jefferson wrote about eating "fried fish in the Jewish fashion" after a visit to Britain.

63 By 1910 there were about 25,000 fish and chip shops in Britain.

64 In 1927 that number had peaked at 35,000.

65 To mark its 21st birthday in 1952, the Harry Ramsden chain served fish and chips at the original prices, selling a world record 10,000 portions in a single day.

66 It has broken this one-day record three times – 10,182 portions in Guiseley (1988), 11,964 in Glasgow (1992) and 12,105 in Melbourne (1996).

67 Fish and chips are popular at celebrity weddings. Kate Winslet, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Myleene Klass reputedly served them on their big day.

68 The most southerly fish and chip shop in the world is Chumley Warner's of south-east Queensland, Australia.

69 Suffolk, at £2.50 a portion, is the cheapest place to enjoy the dish.

70 Winston Churchill referred to fish and chips as "good companions".

71 Michael Jackson liked his with mushy peas.

72 Chips are referred to as French fries in the US and other parts of the world.

73 George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) said fish and chips "averted revolution".

74 Cod still accounts for 12 per cent of total British retail consumption.

75 New York City has four fish and chip shops. The first was called A Salt & Battery.

76 Ancestors of the Incas first ate potatoes 6,000 years ago.

77 Potatoes became fashionable after Marie Antoinette paraded wearing potato blossoms.

78 Belgian historian Jo Gérard says potatoes were fried in 1680 in the Spanish Netherlands. The poor are said to have eaten them with small fried fish.

79 The term "French fries" was introduced when British or American soldiers arrived in Belgium during the First World War.

80 Fish and chip outlets sell roughly 25 per cent of all the white fish consumed in the United Kingdom, and 10 per cent of all potatoes.

81 Shops traditionally wrap their product in an inner layer of white paper (for hygiene) and an outer layer of newspaper (for insulation and to absorb grease).

82 Food-quality wrapping paper is now widely used instead.

83 Dedicated chip bags were first marketed in 1910.

84 The same firm was offering fish trays, salt and pepper boxes by 1909.

85 The British National Federation of Fish Friers was founded in 1913.

86 Cod is widely distributed throughout the North Sea. Adult fish are concentrated off the north-east coast of England and the east coast of Scotland.

87 The fish was thought to be heading toward extinction due to over-fishing at the start of the last decade.

88 Last year cod stocks were expected to exceed the 70,000-ton threshold set by scientists to guarantee the species' long-term survival.

89 The Victorian railway network quickly meant fish landed at Grimsby one day could be on sale in the most distant parts of the country early the following morning.

90 A Mori survey revealed 30 per cent of Britons crave fish and chips while they're abroad.

91 The Belgian habit of eating fish and chips with mayonnaise finds few UK fans. For us, it is salt and vinegar or ketchup or "sauce" if you're from Scotland.

92 Chips with gravy is more popular in northern England than anywhere else in Britain.

93 Studies show that ketchup may help to prevent breast cancer and osteoporosis.

94 If you laid all the spuds grown in Britain end to end they would reach the moon and back three times.

95 A "spud" is actually a small narrow flat spade often used for digging potatoes.

96 The country's finest chippies have competed for the Fish and Chip Shop of the Year competition since 1996.

97 Last year's winner was the Anstruther Fish Bar in Fife.

98 This year's winner will be decided on 21 January.

99 Frankie's Fish and Chips, Brae, in the Shetlands claims to be Britain's most northerly chippy.

100 It would take an area the size of 56,000 Wembley Stadium football pitches to grow all the potatoes needed for the chips consumed annually in the UK.

101 Michelle Obama treated her daughters to a fish supper in a London pub during a recent visit to London.

102 Fish and chip sales have been booming during the recession. From March to November 2008, there were more than 548 million visits to fish and chip shops – up 5 per cent from 523 million in 2007.

103 The fish and chip market is almost completely dominated by independent shops.

104 Notting Hill in London lays claim to Britain's poshest fish and chip shop. Geales serves roast sea scallops, sirloin steak and rocket along with the traditional battered fish and chips.

105 An NHS study revealed that by 2004 an estimated 22 per cent of all Scottish fish and chip shops offered deep-fried Mars bar.

106 The Carron Fish Bar, Stonehaven, Scotland, made the delicacy a reality.

107 Average sales in Scotland peaked at between 50 and 200 bars sold per week in some restaurants, with a national average of 23.

108 The popularity of fish and chips was instrumental in provoking the three so-called Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland.

109 The first of these, between 1 September and 12 November 1958, followed Iceland's expansion of its exclusive fishing zone from four to 12 nautical miles – which was duly ignored by British trawlers.

110 The second, between 1 September 1972 and 8 November 1973, followed Iceland's expansion of the zone to 50 nautical miles.

111 The third and most intense conflict occurred between November 1975 and June 1976, when Iceland expanded it to 200 nautical miles.

112 Battles saw rival nations' ships rammed, fishing nets cut and threats to open fire by escorting naval vessels.

113 British trawlers are now not allowed to fish for cod within 200 nautical miles of the Icelandic coastal line.

114 Cod typically prey on squid, lobster, crabs, worms, molluscs, sand eels, mussels and worms.

115 They also eat other cod, including, occasionally, their own offspring.

116 The fish can live up to 20 years and grow up to lengths of 2m and more.

117 The record for the largest cod ever caught in Britain is 58lb and 8oz, or 26.8kg set near Whitby in 1992.

118 The world record, set in 1895 by a trawler off Massachusetts, US, is 211lb, or 95.7kg.

119 Massachusetts also boasts the largest portion of fish and chips ever served – by Boston pub the Black Rose in 2004, at a total weight of 77.75lb, 34.21lb for the battered cod fillet and 43.54lb of chips.

120 The largest fish and chip shop in the world is reputedly Harry Ramsden's in Guiseley, Leeds.

121 Haddock can reach sizes of up to 1.1m in length.

122 The fish also contains a healthy amount of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids though less than other fish like salmon.

123 Unlike cod, haddock rarely eats other fish, preferring small invertebrates instead.

124 Haddock is not significantly over-fished. Stocks remain relatively plentiful worldwide.

125 Haddock is also a healthier source of protein than beef. Both are 18 per cent protein but haddock contains about a quarter of the calories.

126 The word batter comes from the French word battre which means to beat, a reference to beating or whisking in batter preparation.

127 Batter typically comprises flour, eggs and one or more liquids, including milk, water and oil.

128 Some variants use beer, with English ale popular.

129 The mechanical potato peeler was invented and refined by US crisp seller Herman Lay in the 1920s.

130 Prices are kept low because fish and chip shops keep their menus simple, allowing bulk purchasing.

131 Last year, the Cat Hill Fish Bar in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, was fined £4,000 plus costs for selling Vietnamese cobbler – a cheap substitute – as cod.

132 Mabbutt of Manchester began in 1880 with a single employee building fish frying ranges. By 1910, it employed 150 people building and repairing frying machines.

133 By 1913 Acme Engineering in Leeds was dedicated solely to building and selling fish frying ranges for fish and chip shops.

134 In Preston in 1932 there was one fish and chip shop for every 697 people.

135 In Halifax in 1927 the figure was 557 people per shop.

136 There is a dedicated online community for fish and chip shop lovers – chippy-chat.co.uk

137 The machine used for peeling potatoes in the chip shop is called a rumbler.

138 Vinegar in fish and chip shops tastes different from anywhere else as the majority use a secret recipe.

139 Australians prefer reef-cod or flake, a type of shark meat, in their portions.

140 The England deaf rugby team has a fish and chip shop as its official caterer.

141 The Red Arrows had a fish and chip supper delivered to their end-of-season party.

142 Fish and chips came top of two surveys as a national icon, beating the Queen, Princess Diana and the Beatles.

143 In a further survey, fish and chips beat bacon for the UK's favourite smell.

144 Walker's created fish and chip flavour crisps last year.

145 Such is celebrity chef Brian Turner's love of the dish he has a chip fork made of silver always with him.

146 Tom Parker Bowles, son of Camilla, was a former judge in the Seafish industry authority fish and chip shop of the year competition.

147 The latest modern fish frying technology is pioneered by the Dutch.

148 Coleman's fish and chip shop, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, were the national champions in the 2008 edition of the UKTV Food Heroes competition.

149 Fish and chips have 42 per cent less fat than a doner kebab and a third less than a Whopper Meal.

150 An average portion of battered cod and chips has fewer calories, saturated fat and salt than a cheese and tomato pizza.

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