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The Chippie

TODO: We need to replace the photograph I’ve used on this page with one of our own. This photograph and the others that I’ve found have watermarks which indicate that they’ve been copyrighted. In any case I can’t say I’m very happy with this photograph.

You know how when you smell coffee and then drink it, the taste is never as good as the smell? The same thing went for chips when I was a kid. I’m not talking French Fries, the current parlance for stick thin deep fried allumettes fried in a soy derivative, I’m talking fat, sloppy, piping hot, soft in the middle, slightly greasy mounds of joy, that were sometimes too long  and hot and had to be  pushed into your mouth bit by bit, because they had just been pulled out of the fryer. The same fryer where firm pieces of cod had just been swimming and large sausages had been battered and bathed in fat until bubbled and golden.

When I was a kid, every weekend me and my friends were given our pocket money to go swimming at the local indoor pool during the winter.  Just up the hill from the pool was the local chippie.  The smell was tantalising. You could begin to smell it as you descended to the pool and as you passed it you almost wanted to forget the swimming. The heat in the chippie meant you couldn’t see inside either because the windows were steamed up. Another reminder that for a few short minutes you would be warm when you entered.

Once inside the pool, your mind was elsewhere.  It was a heated large pool with cavernous ceilings, raked seating, deep and shallow ends, lanes and a splash area and we would spend hours diving, swimming and playing until our fingers crinkled and our lips were blue. 

When we’d decided we’d have enough, we head for the showers and sensing the urgency of our hunger would fail to dry off properly, leaving our hair slightly damp and our clothes sticking to us.  Out into the piercing wind of the winter surrounding the pool we’d ascend the hill and enter the chippie, each of us clutching our shilling and waiting our turn.

“What will it be ladies” joked the massive owner behind the counter. She knew the answer and we knew she knew but it was the same questions whenever you went in.

“Packet of chips please”.  We were just large enough to peer over the counter and watch as a gleaming shovel was sent into the mound of freshly cooked chips, or even better as Mrs. Chippie emptied the latest batch out of the basket into the warming unit.  Once the shovel had poured a quantity of chips onto the paper, if you were lucky, Mrs. Chippie might had just a few more, depending on her mood.

“Open or shut?”

 “Open, please”.  

“Salt and vinegar is on the table, don’t make a mess”.

We’d hand over the exact money and grab our cone of chips, anointing them with salt and malt vinegar and dig in straight away. They were so hot and the air was so cold, you immediately felt warmed by them.  We never shovelled them in; we’d take one at a time, sometimes biting them in two and taking in sharp intakes of breath if they were burning hot.  Oh the taste, the texture, the soft steamed interior, the browned crispy exterior, the salt, the acid of thevinegar, the heat.  Never once did we feel that we got used to that taste, or didn’t want to bother.  Each time was like the first time.  We’d wander up the hill, talking between bites and trying to ensure that our packet lasted as long as our mates, and that our sticky fingers dug into the creases of the paper to ensure that every last warm nuggest was savoured, keeping us warm all the way home. 

Elie’s – making okra