The Brits may love their chips but the Italians love the crunch of deep-fried vegetables, best eaten with one’s fingers
When we were kids, my grandparents would take the three of us to a fish and chip shop in Whitby called the Magpie. I can’t remember sitting inside in the cafe, although I know we did. I remember sitting on a wall looking out to sea, the hot chips warming our laps through slightly damp paper, the sea air whipping our hair into our mouths. Grandma would divvy up a large cod between the three of us, making sure we all got our fair share of fish, batter and an equal rubble of the crispy bits. Little wooden forks were quickly discarded in favour of nimble fingers searching for the ideal chip, fat- and vinegar-soggy at one end and crisp at the other. The portions seemed enormous back then, a never-ending sea of chips, great white flakes and shards of golden-brown batter that shattered. Until it did end, which was always a bit sad, and we would screw the paper into a ball and lick our salty lips and fingers, then wipe them on our trousers and Grandpa would frown and say “give over”.
The Italian historian Massimo Montinari is referring to fritters when he writes how “the golden colour of its crust is pleasing to the eye, the bubbling of the fat on its surface delights the ears and the sense of touch is gratified by a food at its best when brought to the mouth with one’s fingers”. But he could just as easily be talking about fish and chips. It wasn’t just that the Magpie’s fish and chips were superb, or that we were sitting on a seaside wall swinging our legs; it was that we were eating with our fingers.
Rachel Roddy’s recipe for cauliflower in parmesan batter