Good riddance to cod and chips ‘a dish from the bad old days of British food’

Fish and chips deserve to be consigned to history, says Andy Newman. Picture: Matthew Usher

Fish and chips deserve to be consigned to history, says Andy Newman. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Archant

News that climate change could sound the death-knell for that takeaway staple, cod and chips, has been greeted with cries of despair in the media.

But I say it's good news: cod and chips is one of the most boring meals on the planet.

Let me make it clear that I view this as good news only in a gastronomic sense.

Environmentally, the root cause is something we should all be concerned about.

But this is a food column, so forgive me if I leave the ecological debate to others, and concentrate on the edible aspects of this particular story.

You can see why once upon a time a meal consisting of a chunk of deep-fried, battered fish with deep-fried potatoes might have been popular.

In days gone by, people were afraid of eating marine creatures, and certainly didn't want their fish supper to resemble anything they could imagine actually swimming around.

Most Read

Taking a formless chunk of flesh and covering it in a thick layer of stodgy batter was the perfect way to disguise both the look of the thing, and indeed its flavour.

But nowadays we have all been taught by the likes of Rick Stein that fish is delicious.

It is healthy and light, and has a subtle flavour.

All it needs is a little seasoning and to be put under the grill, or to be stuffed with a few herbs and baked in the oven loosely wrapped in foil.

For even the most reluctant cook, producing your own fish supper should hold no fears.

So why do we continue to clog our arteries with horrible, greasy battered fish, where the only flavour is something which you could replicate by drinking half a pint of rancid cooking oil?

Alongside comes a pile of soggy fried potato; I'm as big a fan of decent chips as anyone, but generally the fries served at fish and chips shops are oil-sodden, mushy, pulpy and lukewarm.

And don't think that by having mushy peas on the side you are making your fish supper more healthy.

That lurid shade of green is not natural; it comes from additives with the appetising names of 'Tartrazine' and 'Brilliant Blue FCF'.

I'm pretty sure neither of these count towards your Five a Day.

There are many downsides to global warming, but if it means we will start to adopt a Mediterranean attitude to fish, then I say bring it on.

The presence of day-boat squid on the City Fish stall on Norwich market (for me the best place to buy fish in the city) may be an indication that the North Sea is becoming alarmingly toasty, but it also means we can enjoy the kind of dishes which previously have only been available to us on our holidays, or from the freezer.

I despair at the UK's aversion to cooking proper meals for ourselves.

Research which shows that one in six of us will send out for a takeaway on Christmas Day, because we are just too lazy to cook a family meal even one day a year, is frankly depressing.

But I take some comfort from the fact that as a nation, we are slowly turning our back on fish and chips, in favour of meals which are tastier, if not necessarily healthier.

It was some years ago that curry replaced the fish supper as our 'national meal', and our continued love affair with spicy fried chicken shows that we are finally realising that tasteless mush should have no place in our diet.

So if squid, mackerel, red mullet and sardines are going to replace the tired old battered cod, that at least is one positive to be taken from climate change.

There will be those who mourn the passing of traditional fish and chips.

But really, it is food from another era, when we didn't really care about flavour, or healthy eating, or anything other than consuming calories quickly and cheaply.

Fish and chips is a dish from the bad old days of British food, and it's time to consign it to history