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Patatas-fritas

$2 chips spread out beyond the limits of most kitchen tables …

Today’s kids seem to be ignorant of the joys of pigging out on a decent feed of fish and chips. During school holidays they’re more likely to meet up at Maccas or Subway, or, if they’re anything like my daughter, the local Thai restaurant.

In my day we had two lunch choices; fish and chips, the purchase and consumption of which were a right of passage.

During school holidays me and my brother Anton would often end up at my cousins’ Mario and Phillip’s place where the morning madness, which included playing war (being the younger brothers, Phillip and I would have to be the Germans or Japanese) would give way to hunger hastened by the glorious aroma of the fish ‘n’ chip shop just a few hundred yards away.

As the youngest I’d have to make the trip to the fish n chip shop on Main Road East (now called The White Corner Fish and Chips), with my pockets full of 20 and 50 cent coins and an order list that included:

  • $2 chips
  • 8 potato cakes
  • 8 dim sims
  • 4 fish cakes
  • 4 sausages in batter
  • 1 Coke

The shop was run by a bloke named Jerry and was typically decorated by faded advertising posters, including a suggestive one of a girl on a motorbike holding a Chiko Roll. There were also flags of various nations painted around the top of the walls and I’d try guess what country they belonged to while waiting for my order.

After what seemed like ages Jerry’s wife would yell out: “hey boy, twodollarchip, aiyet potatocayke, aiyet dimzeem, four fishcayke, four sausage?”

Plurals weren’t her thing.

I’d grab the Coke from the fridge and hand over the princely sum of $6.50 ( I remember potato cakes being 5c and dim sims 8c). After counting all the coins Mrs Jerry would hand me a pillow sized package of steaming fat, salt and carbs which I’d try and carry back to my hungry brethren along with the heavy glass Coke bottle. The only way to do this without dropping the lot was to hold the Coke in one hand and tuck the package between my forearm and bicep of the other arm. It worked fine but resulted in second degree burns at the back of the elbow.

On my return the boys would peel the food package off my disfigured arms without so much of a thank you and carefully unwrap the bounty on the lounge room floor. In those days $2 chips spread out beyond the limits of most kitchen tables and we wanted to watch the Midday movie, which was usually a western or World War II classic. We’d momentarily stare at the food, mentally giving thanks while Mario, being the eldest, divided the potato cakes, dim sims, battered savs and fish cakes into four.

Once his hands were clear we attacked the lot like rabid dogs.  As John Wayne murdered people in black and white, we feasted over a sea of yellow stodge with a bowl of vinegar placed in the middle for us  to dip our chips – one time I stupidly tried drinking the vinegar which sparked a rather enlightened theological discussion between myself and Mario.

Mario: “Don’t drink the vinegar, it’s bad for you.”

Me: “Jesus drank vinegar.”

Mario: “And look what happened to him.”

Touche Mario. Touche.

The hectic sounds of culinary rapture and rustling paper soon slowed as we each hit a food wall, with battered savs and a not-insignificant 80c worth of chips still to go. But we’d persist, passing around the Coke bottle to wash the food down.

The drinking of the Coke was an event in itself. We’d take advantage of the burpy reaction of the Coke and a belly full of carbs with such gusto that were were able to belch out phrases like and “rum and raisin” and  “get fucked Phillip”. This gave us a second wind and we’d even be hungry enough for one final, violent feeding frenzy over the previously unwanted broken crispy chips that lurked till the very end.

In no time we’d be finished. The bowl of vinegar carefully taken to the kitchen sink, the paper scrunched up and thrown in the bin and last of the Coke poured down our throats.

Our kids don’t know what they’re missing.

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4 responses »

  1. In our house growing up (in the late 80s and 90s) fish and chip night was Friday, because we don’t eat meat on Fridays (anglo Catholic thing). Supposedly this act of abstaining was an act of penance, but how do you figure that when you get fish and chips for dinner?

    To this day I associate chips for lunch with school holidays, though, you’re not alone in that.

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