I was trying to explain the complexities of human interaction to my nephew. How the way we interact has millions of tiny socially created rules and regulations. He couldn’t see what I meant so as we waited for fish and chips I pointed out as many as I could. I realised this would make a useful guide for southerners in West Yorkshire who want fish and chips for tea.
Step 1? Join the queue. Simple? Well not quite. Once you are in the fish shop there are certain specific circumstances where you are allowed to jump the queue. Keep in mind this doesn’t actually mean that you’ll get served before anyone else just that your food order will take priority.
For instance, ordering a special**, a lightly-battered fish, a well done fish or, in some cases, a pie*** requires that you announce it as early as possible in your queuing. Order a special at the counter and you will be judged by the counter staff and mocked (internally) by the other more experienced fish and chip shop customers. Either way you’ll now have to wait until the special is cooked.
A side note on the announcing: do not ask the counter staff, shout it to the fryer. The fryer will, in many cases, respond simply by repeating what you said ‘two lightly-battered’ that’s it. All you have to so now is wait until you’re at the front of the queue and let the person who’s serving you know you ordered the lightly-battered. They will probably know, even in a hideously busy shop.
Step 2 is where some idiosyncrasies and local dialect issues can throw all this advice off. In most of West Yorkshire you order thus: ‘Once’ will get you fish and chips, ‘Twice’ gets you two fish and two portions of chips. This convention is then abandoned and we move on to ‘three times’ ‘four times’ and so on. However, I have heard ‘One of each’ for ‘Once’ though I believe they were on a day trip from the dark place. (Lancashire)
Having ordered the requisite amount of meals to feed your family you then have a few other hurdles to clear.
Do you want scraps? Scraps are bits of batter that fall off the fish as it’s cooked. Basically, it’s cooked batter though sometimes if you’re very lucky you’ll get a bit of fish too. In some places scraps will be called bits, but not many.
Open or wrapped? If you can’t get this one then you’re probably not capable of reading this.
Salt and vinegar? Here’s an important, but incredibly subtle social nuance. The server may ask you if you want salt and vinegar on your fish and chips. If you are holding the salt and vinegar they will open their stance to allow you to put your own on. If, however, you aren’t holding the salt and vinegar they will do it for you.
*Some intershire variations may occur.
** A larger than normal fish (could feed a family of 4 and still swim home)
*** If you order a pie in a fish and chip shop you are most certainly a southerner and have put yourself in incredible danger. The only reason pies are on the menu is to root out southerners.