Fish & Chips, a one-time simple meal for the working man which has firmly been placed as a symbol of Britishness alongside Big Ben and the red telephone box, is celebrated here and heralded quite rightly as a national treasure.
Written by self-confessed enthusiast and fish and chip industry pillar Mark Petrou, you immediately sense the love held for this "humble" craft dish as you take a light-hearted, yet authoritative, read through the history and development of the dish and science behind its cooking.
Yet at first glance, this flimsy soft-covered book could be written off as some industry-written promotional introspective, light on information and high on promotion. Those thoughts, however, are totally without merit. Information and viewpoints are tightly packed together, like sardines in a tin, with a range of photographs added for good measure. In all it can be a bit of a whirlwind.
Unlike many books, this one does let you get right inside the mind of a fish and chip business owner and you can nearly smell (what little remains with the modern frying equipment, anyway) the fish and hear the sizzling of the oil as you read. The reviewer, being someone who has no plans to open a fish and chip business despite enjoying the product, did not find the industry talk and history to be a turn off - which is a surprise as the casual reader doesn't need the level of information and knowledge provided about, for example, a particular well-thought-of importer of frying ranges, yet the almost casual chatty conversational style of the book makes the receipt of this knowledge to be almost an important afterthought and the knowledge does add to the overall package. A very clever technique indeed.
There are a few small niggles with this self-produced book, but they are mainly technical (the book needs a more generous gutter so that one is not reading a telephone book, the quality of the paper, etc but these are small fry (sic) as they just got in the way of reading this interesting book. The biggest irritation was the softcover with its very lightweight paper, as it could have helped change the entire perception of the book should the content not be so compelling and interesting plus, of course, the worry of damaging the book due to its fragile, lightweight cover.
As a bonus, you even get a few recipes to try yourself at home, albeit for accompaniments to the finest that your local fish and chip restaurant can provide. No specific knowledge is given for the home fryer but, of course, the dedicated aficionado cannot fail to pick up some extra industry tips to assist their home production efforts. But part of the love can be by actually going into a traditional fish and chip restaurant and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells... and that is before you even get your order!