BBC Radio Manchester may have opened up a new front on the North/South divide with a claim made on the channel yesterday that the great British chippy tea was invented in Oldham.
Historically, the invention of the national dish has been widely credited to London. The 1997 Encyclopedia of Jewish Food credits the invention to Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe who, in 1860, opened the first business in London’s East End selling Jewish staple fried fish alongside chipped potatoes which, until then, had been found only in Irish potato shops.
In 1968 the National Federation of Fish Fryers even presented a commemorative plaque to Malin’s of Bow, recognising their founding role in the chippy business.
That century-and-a-half of chippy orthodoxy has been thrown up in the air by Daniel Gray, author of new cultural/culinary history Food of the Cods: How Fish and Chips Made Britain, however.
Speaking on Radio Manchester yesterday, Gray said: “The history of Greater Manchester and fish and chips is incredible. They might have been invented in Oldham.”
Gray conceded that London does have a “strong” argument for the honour, but added: “It certainly feels more of a northern thing now, doesn’t it? In Oldham there’s a plaque up next to Levers [itself dated 1860], which is a fantastic chippy, a lovely old-fashioned place, claiming the first chips, so that’s a vital bit. It’s got this great pedigree in your part of the world. The argument rumbles on as to who first put them together, but we’re all just glad they did.”
As if the issue weren’t already controversial enough Gray himself, we have learned, is a Yorkshireman, hailing from Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire, but living in Scotland – both areas with solid claims to fish and chip primacy themselves. This could rumble on.