Thirty minutes from my house, a ‘hybrid’ takeaway sells kebabs, curries, (halal) pizzas and….BUTTER PIES. If that isn’t multiculturalism in action, what is? Okay, so it’s not high-end restaurant eating but it is an indication all the same. Economic migration into the country has signs of positive consequences across the country, none more so than in food and cuisine. If immigrants can continue to adopt and adapt English traditions like the good-old chippy, then all the better…No?
While “Save the Pub” campaigns enchant local newspaper journos and MPs alike, anything done to keep the Chippy seems not to have taken hold across the population at all. Unless I miss my guess, the traditional chippy has a future far less certain than the local pub. Some chippies within easy wandering distance of my flat have made the slow transformation into varied menus – samosas here, spring rolls there – or regenerations into Chinese, Turkish or Indian takeaways.
Who could be blamed for Chippies falling out of favour? Did they stand still while takeaways blossomed, stores such as Subways took over the High Street, or a general shift in food fashion moved away from the Friday fryers? Can the majority of Chip Shop owners be blamed for standing still while developing tastes moved from the rigid menu of fish, chips and pies?
I have a particularly fond taste for the ‘chippy tea’ of legend. Give me the chips and gravy from a Chinese down the road, gravy smelling slightly of red wine with the texture of emulsion paint. It’s not possible to buy such traditional fast food from an old fashioned chippy here unless I fancy an hour walk into the suburbs, or to wait until an “all night” chippy opens at gone midnight opposite a nightclub. No wonder takeaways and Café Nero and Subway and suchlike blossom if the chippy options become less convenient by the month.
Immigration into the country over generations has influenced and dictated our language, fashion and music. Our tastes have become far more varied and mature since the Britons of my father’s generation got their first taste of post-Empire curries. It could be we are living in an era where the totems of Britishness – the boozer, the chip shop – are turning into something different. Younger drinkers, for example, are less likely to meet up down the local for a few jars while the smoking ban is in place and the corner shop can stretch £20 far further than on-tap beers. The pub as a meeting place still exists, only altered, in transition, and so it seems proven with the fast food and snack markets.
In years to come, then, will the chip shop survive only as English options as an aside to the main curry house menu? Interestingly, certain elements of the old-fashioned menus are finding themselves reinvented by the fancier chefs. More evidence of the slow decline of the chip shop?
For too long, the health “agenda” has been far too dictating, too preachy. Making choices like fish and chips or steak pies or battered sausages was seen as almost a crime against the body. Health “chiefs” – who are they? Like the “community leaders” you hear about? – would decry the deep-fried menus; perhaps the message has actually soaked in, if you will?
All this talk of food is making me hungry. I think it may be best if I choose something quick, cheap, and within walking distance…Tesco it is then….