11 Mar 2009

Newspapers, fish and chips

British newspapers have, for a long time, puzzled me. In a country that is often straitlaced about fairness, newspapers often print, deliberately, false allegations and stories of celebrities and politicians etc. Of course, they are sued, but by the time they lose in the courts or print an apology, the circulation boost more than pays for the damages they have to pay out.

Today though, I am not here to speak of such things, or even of the topless models clad only in bikini briefs that grace the front page or the famous Page 3. As an aside, 80’s singer Samantha Fox got her start as a Page 3 model.

I am mentioning a far more popular use. The act of wrapping Britain’s former national dish, fish and chips, in newspapers. This was a long if not noble tradition that went away in the late 50’s to early 70’s, after much wrangling.

Fish and chips sellers used old newspapers to wrap the purchases of customers, who would frequently be seen walking down the street, eating from their purchases, or else taking the greasy packages home for an indoor dinner. These days, the purchases are wrapped in waxed, or greaseproof paper. So what changed that?

West Indians.

The flood of West Indians in the post war years led to several changes, this being one of the more notable.

West Indians rightfully felt that wrapping their meals in old newspapers was a filthy habit, and protested, even refusing to accept the purchases from the sellers. Of course, they had to hear a lot of racist insults about black people not knowing their places, and who did they think they were etc.

In the end though, they did bring about the change, and now there are no shops that wrap the fish and chips in newspapers. Fish and chips are usually served with a sprinkling of salt and white vinegar, the fish being usually cod or plaice in a flour batter. For my West Indian palette accustomed to tasty and seasoned foods, this is quite a horrible concoction, an insult to my taste buds. It is much nicer when I make it myself.

You would have read in paragraph 3 that I said fish and chips was the national dish. For the past 2 years, it has been less popular than chicken tikka masala, which now holds the spot according to a BBC survey. Yes sir, the national dish of Britain is Indian.