Tony Rogers, chairman at fish and chips wholesaler V.A. Whitley, mulls over the question, ‘just what is a chippy?’
From its origins in the trays full of fried fish, baked potatoes and fresh ‘Hotspur’ peas hawked by the street sellers of the 18th and 19th centuries, the local chippy has established itself as a fundamental part of the fabric of British society.
Arising in the 1860s from a marriage of our fried fish and the Belgian concept of fried, chipped potatoes, the chippy rapidly became integral to life in countless towns and villages. It is the place where you can enjoy natural, nutritious foods prepared freshly as you wait amidst the company of others and where you can enjoy the chat!
In summer, you marvel at the staff working away in high temperatures by the range to feed you, and in winter “your” chippy is a friendly haven of warmth sheltering you from the elements. It is a place where people interact and is in complete contrast to the sterile world of the computer-driven global fast food chains.
Many chippies do much more than simply provide the dish that symbolises Britain – fish, chips and mushy peas. Besides having a menu that caters for all tastes (and pockets), many play a much bigger part in their local community by sponsoring local clubs and societies and by occasionally feeding those in abject poverty. They encourage school children to understand where their food comes from and they run raffles and competitions to support local organisations.
Chippies have survived good times and bad. Their importance in sustaining society was recognised by the Government during the two world wars of the 20th century when their food was not subject to the constraints of rationing which affected most other foodstuffs. During the recent Covid pandemic lockdowns, chippies were the first to emerge to give everyone hope.
There is no doubt that our chippies are going through another bad time currently. Raging inflation caused by global shortages and climate change is affecting the costs of all the ingredients as well as the energy supplies essential to the running of a successful shop.
In line with the rise in the costs of foodstuffs and meals everywhere, chippies have had to increase prices to their customers in order to remain viable businesses.
This is a situation that pleases nobody but if the quality of the product is maintained, portion sizes strictly controlled and standards adhered to, our chippies will ride out this economic storm and endure as a highly valued facet of life in Britain through the 21st century. Of that, there is no doubt!