Every Friday night my mother cooked fish and chips. We were a family of seven so it must have been quite a job. The fish was always snapper, those were the days when a family of modest means could afford to have snapper every week.
Mum coated the fish in batter, a mixture of flour, egg, milk and a pinch of salt, then fried it in dripping in a heavy cast iron frying pan. It came out golden and crisp on the outside, succulent inside. Mum was a good plain cook.
The chips were cooked in dripping too in a round, deep, pot with a long handle and a wire basket that fitted inside the pot to hold the chips as they cooked. The dripping, checked carefully by my mother for any impurities, stayed in the pot from week to week. It fascinated me to watch it melt as it heated and solidify as it cooled.
After a good shake, to get rid of excess fat, the chips came out crisp and golden, a delightful combination of texture and taste, crunchy outside, soft inside. I liked to put the chips on a piece of buttered bread and watch, in anticipation of the treat ahead, as the hot chips melted the butter.
Sometimes on Fridays I cook fish. Rather than batter I dust the fish - terakihi, snapper, blue cod - with seasoned flour, pan-fry it in canola or avocado oil and serve as Mum did, with lemon. Instead of chips I do sauté potatoes or wedges and I always have a side salad, no bread and butter.
It’s probably a healthier meal than my mother’s but as delicious? Not quite.
PS. In spite of cooking in dripping my mother lived well into her 87th year.