The Chip Buttie: England’s Gift to the Culinary World

 

Arg! As if teaching ESL wasn’t enough, I now seem to be unofficial instructor to the rest of Europe on the art of making the chip buttie. Hah, you think only us uncouth Brits, dropping our h-ches and swilling our warm beer could stomach these lip-smacking monstrosities, didn’t you?

I was positively nagged by a French friend to take her for fish ‘n’ chips a while back, but I discovered her ulterior motive when the grub arrived – she wanted a lesson in chip buttie making! To be fair, the poor girl had been traumatized on a school trip to England in her youff. There she was, standing on the iconic Brighton Pier, ready to relish her cholesterol-heavy but yummy deep fried taste of the divine, when down swooped a seagull and swiped his share, causing her to drop the rest in alarm. She seriously needed chip buttie therapy to rid herself of the association of chips and that scary scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Then there was my Spanish friend last week, who insisted that I take a photo of a half-eaten sarnie so she could tweet it to her sister. I mean, the full monty, the left-over crumbs – all standard social media fun – but half-eaten?! I ask you!

 

So what happened when I revealed my fried dish from heaven to the world on my own Facebook page? Why Americans and Canadians owned up to never even having heard of it. Color me gobsmacked.

So that’s why this post, folks: A lesson in the art of creating the perfect chip buttie.

Of course the first thing we have to do is to define the word “chip.” A chip is not something thinly sliced and crisp, which comes in a packet, it is a chunky, deep-fried lump of potato, and should be as greasy as you can stand it. If you colonials prefer to call them French Fries then so be it.

  • Possibly the most important step: you must, must, must find an establishment which makes real chips, not McChips, not wedges, but real, English chip shop chips.  Nothing else will give you the right balance of carbohydrates. Find your shop and order a portion of chips. If they ask you about salt and vinegar, tell them you prefer to do that yourself.
  • Before confirming your order, ascertain that the bread they use is also English. Foreign muck is NOT an alternative. There are personal preferences when it comes to the type of English bread. Me, I prefer the soft, floury baps (rolls), which come from my home turf in the wild north of England, but sliced bread is equally acceptable.
  • When your order arrives at the table, it’s important that you begin construction of your sandwich right away, whilst the chips are still hot. Slice the bap if that’s what you have, and liberally butter both pieces, or two pieces of sliced bread. It’s important not to stint on or forgo the butter, because it helps the whole mess to slide down easily.
  • Now choose from your pile of chips the chunkiest ones and lie them side-by-side on the slice of bread. You can do a double layer if you like, but before placing the second layer, perform the following step and then repeat on the second layer.

  • Generously apply salt (and a little pepper if you like, not my personal taste with a chip buttie, but, hey, each to their own). Equally generously, sprinkle with malt vinegar – again, it must be malt, no other type of vinegar is acceptable.
  • This step is optional. It’s one I usually skip, but sometimes the mood takes me. Lather with tomato ketchup or brown sauce. A modern innovation is mayonnaise, again, when the mood takes for me. On no account use garlic mayonnaise, because that would make it foreign muck, like papas locas, and is not acceptable.
  • All that remains is to top with the second layer of bread, and – hey presto (I resist the urge to write voilá because that’s foreign again), you have your chip buttie. Munch and enjoy!

Ah! With what does one wash down this hunk of heaven? There is, of course, only one drink which will make the experience perfect, and that’s tea, black tea that is, none of your green or red stuff, and certainly nothing flavoured with fruit or spices! Black tea, black tea in a big mug, black tea in a big mug with blue and white stripes like my nana used to have.  On a very, very, very hot day a cold beer is allowed, but never, ever, wine!

 

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