To say that I enjoy a good meat pie or a feed of fish n’ chips is an understatement.
I absolutely lose myself in the process of scoffing a hot pie from its little brown paper bag, no sauce, I am not Australian. Trying to prevent the eye-wateringly hot contents falling onto my shirt or worse, onto bare skin.
Also the art of eating a feed of greasies through a ripped hole in the top of the paper while sitting on a bench outside somewhere. Throwing the odd chip to the seagulls that just all of a sudden seem to arrive from nowhere.
I have been known to dress this all up. At home even putting the pie on a plate and eating it with a knife and fork. I had never seen fish and chips eaten on a plate until I visited my in-laws once when dating Jen way back in teenage years.
I was gob-smacked that people actually sat at the table and ate fish and chips with knives and forks.
In my home it was usually on the lounge floor, the whole family including mum and dad sitting around the bundle of golden hot goodies, into them with gusto and bread and butter. A selection of sauces available of course, tomato or worcestershire.
The fish n’ chips on a plate scenario did not survive into our marriage except when the in-laws arrived. Jen was a closet floor-sitter when it came to shark and shavings.
School lunches back then were four slices of white bread and butter with whatever was in the cupboard or fridge plonked between, an apple and maybe a bit of home baking. Wrapped in wax paper and inserted into the old brown paper bag that one was required to fold afterwards and being home to mum to re-use.
Who said we never recycled in the 60s? Brown paper bags were scarce, especially with four or five kids having school lunches each day. Not to be wasted. Woe betides any of us if we forgot to bring them home.
But usually once a week we could buy our lunches. It even got better; Mum would sometimes buy them and deliver them to us at school, joining other mums at the school gate. Fish n’ chips or a pie of course. No McDonalds or KFC in those days.
New Zealand never really discovered takeaways until the 1970s, about 20 years behind the rest of the world. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, a red and white little kiosk, opened in Auckland in 1971, closely followed by New Zealand’s own version of KFC, Homestead Chicken in their little green and white outlets in 1973.
McDonalds arrived in 1976 completing a change away from the traditional pie and fish n’ chips enjoyed by generations of Kiwis.
There were hamburger joints popping up before KFC arrived but when the franchises started arriving everything changed.
I must admit that I was completely disloyal to my pies and greasies at times. Indulging in sweetbreads from Homestead and that gravy and potatoes dish at KFC.
However, over the years I wandered back to my old friends from the bakery and the fish shop. We have done all the franchises, the pizzas, the tacos, Chinese, gourmet burgers, curries. Nothing at all wrong with them but the pies and fish n’ chips dominate still.
Like many of you, we have our favourite pie shop and fish shop, travelling some distances to both to support them. I enjoy waiting for my paper-wrapped fish and potatoes in my favourite shop while I watch the cars queue up at the KFC over the road.
Whanganui has a fine array of bakeries and fish shops to try. Old food is done well here. There is something really nostalgic about walking into a bakery with all those wonderful smells and the really friendly staff who like a chat and serve with a smile.
It’s even better sitting in a fish shop with all the other customers on a busy night, people coming and going, chatting, the phone ringing constantly, the cooking crew flat out, usually the owners with a few schoolkids helping.
A bowl of complimentary lemons on the counter along with the wee sachets of tomato sauce. The chart on the wall with the types of fish we find in our seas. Again, the mouth-watering smell of fresh food being prepared.
Yes, pies and fish n’ chips for me.