Sephardi origin for “Fish and Chips”?


The important “discovery” of the S&P origins of the iconic British meal of Fish and Chips got a brief notice in the Jewish Chronicle today (The Diary, p 45).

Although it has been known for years that fish fried in batter was introduced to Britain by Portuguese refugees, the new discovery was an associated recipe for Potato Shavings, in a recipe book “The Jewish Manual: Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery,” published anonymously in 1846 by Judith, Lady Montefiore. 


According to Wikipedia, potato chips were invented by an American in 1853 and the first British reference to chips is in Dickens in 1859. Lady Montefiore’s 1846 reference beats them both!

Evan Milner discovered this interesting 1737 reference to fried fish being prepared (with unfortunate consequences) in the vicinity of Bevis Marks Synagogue and  ”in the manner of the Jews”.


“On Friday in the afternoon a Fire broke out in White Horse Yard, Dukes Place, near the Portuguese Jews’ Synagogue, occasion’d by a black woman, that was dressing some Fish after the manner of the Jews, in which they use oil, which by carelessness boiled over into the Fire; and, for the want of water, consumed by the computation upwards of 20 Houses.” Wed Feb 1, 1737, “Exposition on the Common Prayer” (a News Gazette with religious and general content).


Click on the image above to see the complete publication in Google Books.

In a letter written at the end of the eighteenth century, future American President Thomas Jefferson described eating “fried fish in the Jewish fashion” on a visit to London. 

A frisson of amusement was felt – with absolutely no disrespect intended – at the suggestion of Sir Moses Montefiore returning from one of his many diplomatic or philanthropic missions on behalf of the Jewish Community, and being regaled by his Lady with a helping of Fish and Chips wrapped in an early edition of the Jewish Chronicle.


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