Take a piece of cod.  Bread it.  Fry it.  Can it BE bad?  I’ve had my fair share of “fish and chips” here in the States and the answer to that question is “Yes”, you can have bad fried foods.  But the English have perfected the fish and chips like nobody’s business.  Sure, there are still bad fish and chips shops in London, but Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden is not one of them.  Opened since 1871, it’s now the oldest fish and chips shop in the UK.  What I didn’t know about these shops is that during World War II, there were neighborhood meetings to see which areas of the city needed food most.  These fish and chips shops then made sure those parts of the city got food first.  Fish and chips were the only foods in the UK at the time that were not subject to being rationed, so it became a way for local restaurant owners to take part in fighting against the Nazi’s.

When we got a chance to eat at Rock and Sole Plaice this summer, that was a history lesson they never taught in school.  You go in and it’s a very tiny little restaurant with maybe 6 tables inside.  The patio had a few long tables and benches, but nothing fancy.  The cod and haddock were perfectly cooked and flaky.  I can still taste the wonderful fish flavors with the malt vinegar and chips.  The tin of tartar sauce and ketchup on the table made it to the plate time and time again.  With the wonderful food in the most adorable area of London, their food took me to a time I never knew [WWII] and helped me visualize what it must have been like to gather in the basement to see where to send the food first.  It seem straight out of the movies, but it helped a city through one of the worst bombings in history.

Fish and chips isn’t just fish and chips – at least not in the UK.  Not in London.  It is a staple in the UK for many decades for a reason.  The abundance of the fish in the English Channel helped London/UK be one of the largest fish sellers for a long time.  And in 1860, a Jewish man name Joseph Malin opened the first fish and chips shop, combining the Jewish fish fry with chips.  Ever since, it has become uniquely English, right up there with the teas.  There’s something wonderful about deep fried fish, but when it’s put into context of a city burning and besieged by aerial bombs day-in-and-day-out, it isn’t just a dish on the menu.  It’s a food that kept the city alive in its hope that it will endure and prevail against the tyranny of evil.  And these shops played a part, however small or big, in its fight.  And they still had time to perfect the deep frying of fish so that it is perfectly flaky and tender.  And that’s an achievement worth noting.

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