Mystical Fish and Chips for Everyone!

Frying Tonight coverFrying Tonight: The Saga of Fish & Chips

Submitter: In this book Gerald covers every aspect of the great British invention – Fish & Chips. He takes us on a journey from the 1880’s, the days of the ‘Fish Dinners for the Poor’ campaign, then on past the ‘Great Cruelty to Eels Trial’ of 1909, to the banning of the serving of them, wrapped in newspaper. He debates the mystical properties of fish and discusses whether chips could possible be an aphrodisiac.

He tells of the launching of Fish & Chips upon the unsuspecting people of the United States. In 1936, after the introduction of ‘English Fish Bars’ in many American cities, The Fish Trades Gazette announced: ‘It’s a wow! You wanna step down to 130 East 45th Street and see a little bit of England in the form of a Fish & Chip shop? It’s a cinch! New Yorkers who have discovered this dandy eat are sure spilling a bibful about it. It’s the works!  I was certainly wowed to learn that a Mr Salt opened his first Fish ‘n Chip shop in Sausalito, near San Francisco and served up the ‘finger-food’ in specially printed hygienic replicas of a front page of The Times!

Holly: This book is alive and well in libraries all over the world. (Ok, maybe not “well,” but definitely in existence.) Unless it circulates, I can’t imagine why most libraries have it 41 years later. If it circulates, by all means keep it. Otherwise, rest assured that the history of fish and chips is widely available elsewhere.

Frying tonight contents

Chips by the Way

The Better Class Dripping



  1. I LOVE the sound of this book! I’m sure I was taught at school that the expansion of fish and chip shops helped reduce working class death rates in the early 20th century. Of course, I’ve never actually bothered to check the validity of that statement despite sharing this fact with anyone who will listen to me. I had a ‘fish supper’ for my birthday treat this year. Now THAT’s living.

  2. Add me to the list of people who really want to read this. Besides, even after an (admittedly quick) bit of Googling, I can’t find any sources that talk about the “the ‘Great Cruelty to Eels Trial’ of 1909”. (In fact, this page of this blog is now Google’s top result when you search “Cruelty to Eels Trial”.) I’ve at least got to know what that bit’s all about.

    1. That’s disappointing — I was going to go look that up, too. Please, if anyone can fill us in, I would like to know! And, does this cruelty extend to eels in sushi?

      1. “My own favourite from the Gazette (a) appeared in 1909, under the headline ‘Alleged Cruelty to Eels’. It was a case brought by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (b).
        A Lavender Hill fishmonger was charged with ‘causing unnecessary suffering to certain wild animals in captivity’, to wit: seven eels. There was much debate about whether eels were animals, whether they really suffered at all after their heads were cut off, and whether similar charges might be brought against oyster-openers at the Savoy. (c).
        The case was dismissed after the magistrate had told a long and revolting story about human heads biting each other in the basket beneath the Guillotine.
        Thirty years later, my wife was still taking her little brother and sister for an afternoon’s Grand Guignol, watching the headless eels writhe on a stall in Brixton.”
        From the book by Gerald Priestland.
        (a) Fish Trades Gazette. UK Trade Journal.
        (b) RSPCA – UK charity.
        (c) Posh London hotel.

    2. Yes, Please! I will spend the rest of my work day distracted by fruitless speculation about the Great Cruelty to Eels trial. Please, some one, put us out of this misery and let us know what it was!

    3. It looks like this incident was described in the 1 December, 1909 issue of the London Times. Unfortunately, I don’t have database access to the article.

  3. I wish I had a copy. It sounds like a fascinating read! The cover looked like a young adult novel at first glance.

  4. I’d be interested in reading this. It looks like it’s along the same lines as that famous book about the history of salt (I believe the title is Salt), which uses salt as the common thread for a wide-ranging social history. Maybe this book isn’t as good as that one, but the premise sounds just as interesting.

    1. I loved “Salt”! It kept me company on a drive from Pennsylvania to Louisiana and back. The library had a bunch of books on CD displayed, and this one seemed like a good bet (I prefer nonfiction to fiction, and I love history). I remember sitting in my car for 20 minutes before checking into the hotel so I could finish out a chapter!

  5. This looks like a book a lot of people would enjoy (including me). Maybe it needs to be promoted rather than weeded.

  6. Yes, indeed, all the history a decent person needs on fish and chips is right there. Why even bother having books at all when you’ve got Wikipedia articles? Lord knows those are universally well-written, unbiased, and not subject to sudden change. Who needs “books?”

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