When I think of the food I ate as a little kid growing up in Northeastern Tennessee, I think of fried chicken, fried okra, fried fish—even hamburgers fried up in the pan. I know that my mother fixed plenty of healthy items, and I remember a lot of vegetables passing the top of the table, but what stands out in my memory is anything battered and sizzling in the pan. Therefore, it’s really no surprise that one of my favorite dishes today is fish and chips.
When my husband and I traveled in England this summer, I ate this dish almost daily. Every pub we visited I ordered some rendition of the fare. I ate gourmet versions of it—lightly battered fish served on a bed of greens sitting beside hand-cut shoestring fries, as well as the traditional—two pieces of heavily beer-battered cod sitting atop big chunky fries. I ate it with malt vinegar and with ketchup. I simply couldn’t get enough of it!
Yesterday my dad and I drove out to Upperville, Virginia (a tiny little town near Middleburg) in which the only real attraction is a fabulous old English-style tavern called The Hunter’s Head. In and of itself, the tavern is an enjoyable experience, simply for the authentic décor and the friendly service. But the fish and chips! Wow! This dish tasted as close to authentic English fish and chips as anything I've previously enjoyed—light and crispy battered cod (and plenty of it!), and perfectly salted, hand-cut fries with just a hint of the remaining potato skins. Obviously I’m still thinking about it and basking in the glow of that great meal this morning as I write.To all of those who wish to remind me how unhealthy the dish—I know, I know. But I like to think that my southern upbringing and childhood diet of fried everything gave me a constitution that can withstand it.